UBB WILL HAVE A NEW OWNER
MERGER BETWEEN NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE AND ALFA BANK PROJECTEDThe National Bank of Greece (NBG), which holds 89.9% of United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), and the second largest Greek financial institution Alfa Bank announced they would ask for their shareholders' approval to merge. The news was broken on November 1 by Associated Press. The NBG and Alfa Bank are presently the two biggest credit institutions in Greece. Schroder Salomon Smith Barney was contracted as advisor in the merger, and KPMG - as an independent auditor, the NBG informed.The bank to be set up as a result of the merger will rate 23rd on the list of the largest credit institutions in Europe. Its assets will total EUR80BN (USD72BN) and its market capitalization will be EUR10BN (USD9BN). NBG's President Theodoros Karadzas, who is also Chairman of UBB's BoD, will be appointed executive president of the new bank, and Yanis Kostopoulos, who currently heads Alfa Bank's managerial team, will be the governor.The new bank will have larger opportunities to play a leading role in South Eastern Europe - a market towards which both the NBG and Alfa Bank show special interest. Among NBG's acquisitions are: UBB (the second largest credit institution in Bulgaria) and Economic Bank in Skopje (the top bank in Macedonia). In addition, the NBG owns a credit institution in Romania and four branch offices in Albania. It has also received an approval from Serbia's central bank to open a branch office in Belgrade. Thus, the Hellenes' influence will spread on the financial markets in the Balkans, and being the only EU member in that region Greece already considers it its staked claimAlfa Bank has a branch office in Sofia. Its balance sheet value, however, is not big. By end-September 2001 it totalled some BGL40MN. Alfa Bank has a branch in Romania as well, and is the owner of Credit Bank in Macedonia. The merger between the NBG and Alfa Bank will probably result in the merger of the subsidiaries in various countries. Thanks to their united efforts the new bank will gain very strong positions in Romania and Macedonia. UBB will be its leader in Bulgaria. UBB's balance sheet value is presently around BGL1.4BN, its capital amounts to BGL242.2MN, and its profit by end-September totalled BGL17.06MN. The aggregate amount of credits extended by UBB is BGL299MN, and companies' and private persons' depostits exceed BGL1.05BN.On October 31 the Bulgarian National Bank amended its Order No 16 on payments effected through bank cards and granted UBB a permission to establish its own system for issuing debit and credit cards, to be linked with Borika - the national system for payments.