The Slovenia Times

Slovenia Business Challenges: Banking


NLB: Archibald Kremser, MBA, Member of the Management Board and CFO

Q: Last year, as a result of the European roadshow, NLB bonds were mostly picked up by UK-based investors. How would you describe NLB activity on international capital markets and in turn, attracting a diversified investor community
A: NLB actively manages our relationship with the international capital markets and has invested in a more professional Investor Relations function; which is also in anticipation of the IPO of the bank planned by the government to be completed by 2017. NLB has always maintained very good relationships with the international investor community and has issued a wide range of instruments. Although the immediate requirements for funding and capital instruments are not yet established, given pending regulatory developments and generally an extremely healthy liquidity position, NLB will continue to maintain an active dialogue with the existing investor base through regular meetings and non-deal roadshows. This will allow us - when needed - to act quickly with any upcoming issuance. The IPO preparation will be run in close dialogue with SDH and will certainly include, from an early stage, a very proactive approach to educate the investor base about the investment opportunity.
Q: NLB is the largest state-owned bank. How does state-ownership affect current performance when sourcing the international capital that you are seeking?
A: NLB has noticed, from the last international bond issuance, that the market seems to anchor the pricing somehow on the sovereign risk. This might change, depending on the instrument, based on the various changes in regulation that has taken place since. Other than that, the bank is managed with full independence and under the supervision of the ECB and by internationally comprised Management and Supervisory Boards. Our results show very healthy development in a very challenging market environment and we anticipate showing solid profits in the years to come. Consequently, we consider our ability to attract investors to any future investment opportunities of the bank will be entirely focused on the banks performance and continued good governance.
Q: What would you say are the main opportunities and the challenges for foreign or domestic investors in Slovenia?
A: Slovenia has shown very healthy development at the macroeconomic level and expects above Eurozone-level growth in the coming years. Slovenia benefits from the acknowledged status of being a Eurozone economy and has always been considered a leader in terms of economic development in the CEE/SEE EU Member States. Given that, NLB has seen rising interest in investment in to Slovenia from capital markets to direct investments in companies and real assets and more recently, non-performing loan portfolios from Slovenian banks. Domestically, investors are showing increasing interest in investing in domestic capital market issues as well as increasing confidence in the real estate market. Naturally, the challenge of the relatively low liquidity of all markets remains and therefore calls for transparent information and education about the market, which is certainly a key objective of NLB in promoting all investment opportunities.

UniCredit Banka Slovenija d.d.: Stefan Vavti, M.Sc., CEO

Q: UniCredit Banka Slovenije is a member of the UniCredit Group, the Italian global banking and financial services company. What does lending money to the Slovenian private sector mean for your business?

A: We were the first international bank to operate in Slovenia. Established in 1991, we have grown organically into one of the three systemically important banks in the country. This is because we grew along with our target customers, organically over time, and we were able to avoid some mistakes which helped us to overcome the very difficult period from 2012-14 when many market participants were expecting the troika. Our bank was and is, well equipped with capital and above all, with superior employees who focus always on customer needs. Thus, being engaged in the private sector is our goal and we want to perform alongside the success of our customers, from individual to corporate.

As part of UniCredit, we are an important part of a leading European commercial bank with a strong market position in 17 countries. Our network is spread over approximately 50 markets, with more than 146,000 employees. In Central and Eastern Europe, the group network consists of 3,420 branches with more than 68,000 employees. The extensive UniCredit international network allows us to offer comprehensive support to companies operating at home, export-oriented companies penetrating European and global markets, as well as to businesses oriented to the growing markets of Central and Eastern Europe.

Q: Which business sectors in Slovenia do you recognise with the potential to support financially and does it matter if the company is domestically or foreign-owned in Slovenia?

A: To name just a few: infrastructure, export oriented companies, small and medium sized companies as well as private clients. There is no difference whether they are domestic or foreign, just if they are better and worse which, in the end, is a function of the quality of employees of the particular company.

Q: How would you position UniCredit Banka Slovenije in the UniCredit Group?

A: We are a small but a profitable part of UniCredit Group with a clear focus on serving our ever increasing number of customers. Despite the overwhelming regulation hitting our industry, we were able to grow our market share consistently before and during the crisis. We trust this will also continue now that we are a bit more "out of the woods" and confidence is slowly returning and growing among our private and corporate customers.

Additionally, we are one of the few banks in Slovenia who did not need external aid from our owner or the state. As already said, we have grown organically into one of the three systemically important banks in Slovenia and we are therefore subject to the direct control of the ECB. The stress test we just recently passed showed that, once again, our bank is one of the most stable banks in Europe with a strong capital position.

Our excellence is confirmed by the awards we have received. We are the best bank in Slovenia, according to EMEA Finance and the reputable international magazine, Euromoney, which also awarded us as the best bank for cash management in Slovenia and we were recognised as the best bank for custody services in Slovenia by Global Finance magazine. All of this shows that we are successfully offering the best range of services to even the most demanding clients.

Abanka d.d.: Jože Lenič, M.Sc., President of the Management Board

Q: Abanka is the result of the merger between Abanka Vipa and Banka Celje, the country's second largest bank by assets. What are your main sources of capital other than state capital?

A: Although well capitalised, Abanka could strengthen its capital position by retaining earnings in the coming years.

Q: Where do you see the potential to grow your existing market share?

A: Abanka focuses primarily on retail banking and SMEs, but also provides a full range of banking services to large enterprises.
We are creating a bigger, better, stronger and trustworthy bank that pursues contemporary market trends in our financial operations and offers our customers more than ever before. We remain committed to excellence in fulfilling all of our customers' financial needs, with emphasis on a personal approach, the highest quality services and a highly flexible range of products and services.

Q: The merged bank plans to be privatised by mid-2019. How do you plan to increase the attractiveness among international investors?

A: Abanka's strategy includes measures that make the bank more attractive to investors and which can be seen in the significant market share of around 10% and the appropriate return on equity.

SKB Bank: François Turcot, CEO and Member of Board

Q: SKB banka is a member of the Société Générale Group, the French multinational banking and financial services company. What does lending money to the Slovenian private sector mean for your business?

A: SKB bank benefits considerably from being part of the Société Générale group. SKB is managed according to Société Générale's strict, professional and ethical rules, which gives security to each of our depositors and means we can provide our clients with a large range of high quality products and services at the most favourable price. Our corporate clients benefit from Société Générale's very large international network, including in the Balkan countries, and from the service of specialists from Société Générale's head office in cases where clients need sophisticated financial operations.

Q: Which business sectors in Slovenia do you recognise with the potential to support financially and does it matter if the company is domestically or foreign owned?

A: SKB is a universal bank, present all over Slovenia through its network of 56 branches and serves all type of clients, individuals, very small to large companies, municipalities, etc... regardless of the nationality of these clients. With each and every client, we try to find an appropriate financing solution that is optimal for both sides, the client and the bank, and we are pleased that we can offer to the market products and services at competitive prices. At the same time, we follow strict criteria for managing the risk arising from the financing needs of our clients.

Q: How would you position SKB in the Société Générale group?

A: Société Générale employs more than 150,000 staff in 88 countries. Part of the Group's strategy is to be present in Eastern Europe where we consider that there is a significant growth potential. Société Générale has a strong presence in the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Bulgaria but also in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and of course, in Slovenia and will continue to invest in the country. For example, we have just acquired BPF (Banque Peugeot Finance) Slovenia, which is the company financing Peugeot and Citroen car dealers and the buyers of those two brands of cars in the country. It shows that Société Générale is very confident in the future economic development of Slovenia, which has a lot of assets. Société Générale believes that a bank, if it is correctly managed, can be sustainably profitable in a country.


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