March 6, 2018 / 10:59 AM / 14 days ago

Serbia's branch of Greece's Eurobank seeks to increase market share

KOPAONIK, Serbia March 6 (Reuters) - Greece’s Eurobank is looking to increase its market share in Serbia and would consider an acquisition if an opportunity arises, its chief executive told Reuters on the sidelines of a business forum.

Eurobank, the only Greek bank operating in Serbia, is the EU candidate country’s seventh-largest bank with a 4.5 percent share of the market.

“Our aim is to be among the five top banks, and opportunities for organic growth are limited in Serbia,” Slavica Pavlovic told Reuters. “I do not exclude an acquisition if an opportunity arises.”

Three of Greece’s four lenders operating in Serbia — Alpha Bank, National Bank of Greece and Piraeus Bank — have sold their branches due to the debt crisis.

Some 30 banks, the majority of which are branches of European lenders, operate in Serbia, but analysts say is too many for a nation of 7 million.

“The consolidation of the banking sector began a couple of years ago and that trend will continue. It is clear that only big players can achieve adequate profitability.”

Eurobank last year reported a 10 percent increase in lending and a profit before tax of 20 million euros ($24.69 million), Pavlovic said.

“We expect to maintain that growth in lending this year and in the coming years,” she said, warning that low interest rates and possible changes to legislation as Serbia progresses towards membership of the European Union remain a challenge.

$1 = 0.8102 euros Reporting by Ivana Sekularac, editing by Louise Heavens

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