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Oberbank keeps regional focus

Franz Gasselsberger has ruled out an engagement of Oberbank in Eastern Europe (EE).

The Linz-based finance institute runs some branches in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary but concentrates on activities in Austria and Germany. Now its CEO said the plan was to continue "to grow in an organic way". Gasselsberger told the Kurier: "We open one branch after the other. We have opened 50 new bank branches in the past five years."

Gasselsberger made aware of some Austrian rivals’ difficulties after quick and extensive expansion in EE. The Oberbank head stressed that Austrian capital Vienna and the German province of Bavaria were highly profitable markets. Oberbank plans to open four to five new branches in Vienna this year, according to Gasselsberger.

Speaking to the Kurier, the banker told the Kurier that Oberbank wanted to run 30 to 32 branches in Vienna. Gasselsberger, who has headed Oberbank since 2005, added that 30 bank branches in Bavaria were the financial institute’s long-term target for Germany.

Oberbank achieved a net profit of 111.2 million Euros last year, up by 13.1 per cent compared to 2010. The bank, which was established in 1869, manages 150 branches in Austria and abroad. Gasselsberger explained that he had always wanted to improve previous performance figures but admitted that achieving a profit similar to the one of last year in 2012 could be considered a success.

Oberbank did not ask the state for financial support during the most recent crisis. Several competitors – including market leader Erste Bank Group AG (Erste Bank) and Volksbank AG (ÖVAG), which was partially nationalised recently – received billions of Euros from the Republic of Austria between 2008 and 2011. Gasselsberger said: "Depending on help would give me a feeling of having failed."

Gasselsberger’s promise not to launch an expansion in EE follows news of a Bank Austria (BA) profit decrease. The Viennese finance institute achieved a net profit of 209 million Euros last year, down by more than 70 per cent compared to 2010. At the same time, BA’s total assets soared from 193 billion to 199.2 billion Euros.

BA is headed by Willibald Cernko. His contract was extended to 2015 only a few weeks ago. BA manages the activities of Italian bank UniCredit in EE except in Poland. This means that BA operates in Austria and 14 other countries. Its Kazakh affiliate is deep in the red while business is doing much better in Russia.

UniCredit suffered a loss of 9.2 billion Euros in 2011. The bank had never done worse before in its history but bosses have shown confidence considering the current business year. UniCredit chief Federico Ghizzoni said he was certain that the bank would soon be back in the black. UniCredit has 160,000 employees.

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