VIENNA The head of the Raiffeisen bank in the Austrian province of Upper Austria has threatened to move its headquarters across the border to Germany in a growing row with the government over a bank levy which lenders say is too onerous.
The remarks by Heinrich Schaller, head of Raiffeisen Landesbank Oberoesterreich RLBOp.VI, to a regional newspaper comes after the Czech president said this week that Erste Group (ERST.VI) may move its headquarters to Prague.
"It would be negligent in business management terms if I did not consider moving to be an option," Schaller told the Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten in an interview printed on Friday, noting its bank levy bill in Germany would fall to around 5 million euros ($6.9 million) from 34 million euros in Austria.
"We are not the only bank that is considering a move abroad," he added.
Austrian banks have chafed under the government's campaign to recoup funds that taxpayers provided to help the sector through the financial crisis. A levy on big banks' assets raises around 640 million euros a year for the state budget.
Social Democrat Chancellor Werner Faymann said last week he would keep that levy despite a parallel program to set up a fund to enable the winding-down of ailing euro zone banks.
The chief executive of UniCredit's (CRDI.MI) Bank Austria has demanded talks with the government over the issue.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Greg Mahlich)