The Slovenia Times

NLB bank well prepared for turbulent times, chairman says


Ljubljana - Slovenia's largest bank NLB is in excellent shape and well prepared for turbulent times ahead, chairman of the board Blaž Brodnjak said after today's shareholder meeting. He is also not concerned by the tightening of monetary policy in the eurozone. When necessary, households and companies will be assisted, he announced.

Brodnjak told the press the bank's business results were "very good". "The bank is in excellent shape, capital is sound, and liquidity is strong." Going forward, he believes there will be plenty of opportunities for both organic and inorganic growth.

He is aware that turbulent times are ahead but is confident that the Slovenian economy and banking sector are well prepared for this.

Asked what the tightening of the monetary policy in the eurozone means for NLB's policy, including regarding deposit fees, he said the bank would adjust as soon as the European Central Bank decided to lift the negative interest rates.

He noted that European central bankers had so far decided only to raise at their July meeting the overnight deposit rate at the ECB, currently at -0.5%, by 0.25 percentage points. "We will immediately adjust to this by lowering the fee and then at some point abolish it altogether," he said.

Looking at the indicators in Slovenia, he predicted a successful recovery from the interest rate hikes. "In principle, banks are armed with a set of skills, measures, agreed principles and approaches on how to relieve the burden where really needed.

"If companies will have liquidity problems, we will know how to approach and restructure them. And we will try to do the same for households if they have difficulties in paying out their loans," he said. However, no such problems could be detected yet.

Regarding possible new acquisitions, he said that nothing concrete was on the table at the moment. However, he estimates that opportunities will arise in several markets in the region.

In this context, the bank is very keen to see the Croatian and Slovenian authorities resolve the issues from the past, as this would allow NLB to enter the Croatian market and give it further "leverage for very strong growth in the future".

Primož Karpe, chief supervisor at NLB, said that NLB's results for last year spoke for themselves. "Our ambitions for the future are even greater, our foundations are sound and there is no reason not to look at the future with great optimism and with what the wider region, not just Slovenia, brings us".

The NLB group generated a profit of EUR 236.4 million last year, which, excluding the effects of the acquisition of Komercijalna Banka in Serbia, is a significant growth. In the first quarter of this year alone, the acquisition of Sberbank generated a net profit of EUR 231.5 million, which is about 3.5 times more in the same period last year.

The bank plans to pay dividends in two tranches of EUR 2.5 gross per share, or a total of EUR 5 gross per share. Thus, it plans to allocate EUR 100 million for dividends. Shareholders approved the first part of the dividend payout at today's meeting.


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