BIG BANKS RETAINED THEIR MARKET HEGEMONY
No significant changes in the layers of the Bulgarian bank market took place in 2002, although some credit institutions made aggressive attempts to expand their market positions. Various tricks were used for achieving that aim: launching of new credit and deposit products, advertising campaigns, and even lobbying in front of the state administration, with whose assistance banks usually undertake the servicing of budget accounts of state-run companies and institutions, which handle billions of levs. Due to their aggressive policies ROSSEXIMBANK, Municipal Bank, and EIBANK raised considerably the aggregate amount of their assets and according to that criterion got ahead of BNP-Paribas (Bulgaria), which was among the top ten credit institutions in this country. UNIONBANK, Corporate Bank, and ProCredit Bank almost doubled their balance sheet values. But the performance of the above-mentioned credit institutions did not result in any changes on the market.In end-2002 the top ten banks in the country - BULBANK, United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), DSK Bank, Biochim Commercial Bank, Bulgarian Post Bank, First Investment Bank (FIB), SG EXPRESSBANK, HEBROSBANK, Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria), and BNP-Paribas (Bulgaria) - included in the first and second group according to BNB's ranking, were still controlling more than BGN8.7BN, or about 79% of the total amount of assets (BGN13.7BN), in the financial and credit sector. They managed over 83% of all deposits of citizens and companies, and extended almost 80% of all credits. When big investment loans are needed, the necessary financing is usually allocated by consortiums between members of the top ten banks' club. An example is the credit extended to the Maritsa Iztok 3 thermoelectric power station, in which BULBANK, UBB, Biochim and SG EXPRESSBANK participated on the Bulgarian side. The aggregate profits of the banks included in the first and second group were almost BGN236MN in end-2002, exceeding 90% of the positive financial after-tax result, reported by the entire bank system in Bulgaria.