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BUCHAREST (Romania), March 13 (SeeNews) - Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) said on Wednesday that is considering new acquisitions in order to strengthen its position in strategically relevant markets.
"This may entail organic growth and potential acquisitions of portfolios or small banks should a suitable opportunity arise and the price be right," CEO Johann Strobl said in an interview published in the lender's 2018 annual report when asked what the bank will do with the additional capital it raised last year.
"In certain CEE countries, a consolidation of the banking sector is underway and we want to play an active role in the process," Strobl added.
When asked which countries are relevant for the bank at present, Strobl answered that the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia and Bulgaria are particularly interesting. "However, this does not mean that we do not want to grow in other CEE countries as well. We will need to reevaluate Romania," he added.
Concerning Romania, the lender noted in its 2018 report that at the end of last year, the Romanian government decided to introduce a new bank tax.
"As there is discussion surrounding the potential negative impact on the Romanian economy, there is still a need for consultation at government level. It therefore cannot be ruled out, that the draft which was presented at the end of 2018, could still be revised and mitigate the burden on the banking sector. The impact on RBI cannot be quantified at this point in time," RBI said.
RBI's global consolidated profit rose 14% in 2018 to 1.27 billion euro ($1.43 billion), while NPL ratio decreased further to 3.8%.
"2018 was the best year in the history of the bank. It is particularly pleasing that all of our network banks are generating profits. The main driver behind the very good result was the development in risk costs. We not only benefited from the very good economic developments in Central and Eastern Europe but also worked actively to improve our risk profile," Strobl added in the interview.
RBI is an Austria-based banking group with a strong presence in CEE, where nearly 47,000 employees service 16 million customers through 2,200 business outlets.
In SEE, RBI is present in Romania, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia and Kosovo.
Since 2005, RBI's shares have been listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange.