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Oct 30, 2007 17:58 EEST
October 30 (SeeNews) - Spain's third largest bank by assets la Caixa said on Tuesday it opened a representative office in Romania following an investment of some four million euro ($5.76 million), aiming to expand its corporate services business in Central and Eastern Europe.
The only country in Central and Eastern Europe, where la Caixa has operated so far, is Poland.
"At the beginning we'll be only serving Spanish companies that have become well-established on the Romanian market, next we'll focus on Romanian companies and will work for small and medium-sized enterprises," la Caixa CEO Juan Maria Nin told a news conference.
"As a next step, we are interested in acquiring a bank in Romania to develop retail services as well," Nin said but did not elaborate on a timeframe for an acquisition.
The privatisation of CEC, the last Romanian commercial bank still in state ownership, was put on hold last year, after the Romanian government rejected the sole bid placed by the National Bank of Greece as too low.
La Caixa, which is the biggest Spanish savings bank, had a net profit of 3.025 billion euro at the end of 2006. Its assets totalled 239.6 billion euro at the end of September.
The bank serves 10.4 million clients worldwide. Its bid for Bulgaria's Economic and Investment Bank failed in September in favour of Belgian financial group KBC.
"Our offer was not the best one and we were left out of the competition," Juan Nin said.
The bank has 64,167 Romanian nationals as its clients in Spain. Romanians in Spain totalled 525,000 at the end of 2006, 118,000 more than a year earlier and equal to 9.8% of the foreign nationals residing in the country.
The financial institution hopes to accelerate Spanish investments in Romania, which joined the bloc in January. Foreign direct investments (FDI) by Spain in Romania topped 150 million euro in 2006. FDI inflows in Romania were close to 9.0 billion euro last year.
In Romania la Caixa has established partnerships with the unit of Austria's Raiffeisen Bank, and the market's two top players, BCR, majority-owned by Austria's Erste and Romanian Development Bank, part of French Groupe Societe Generale.
($ = 0.694 euro)
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