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Poland: Lonely Handlowy

No bank in Poland, it seems, wants to marry the acquisition-hungry Bank Handlowy, and the Polish treasury hasn't helped as matchmaker. But the once-proud foreign trade giant desperately needs a source of retail deposits. It missed out on Bank Pekao, and the smaller Bank Zachodni. What scraps are left that the foreigners haven't eaten? Oonagh Leighton reports

Back at the beginning of this decade, the future looked promising for Bank Handlowy, the Polish foreign trade bank which then enjoyed a virtual monopoly in corporate banking. Now it is looking rather less so, thanks to the increased foreign competition and Handlowy's failure to purchase any of the Polish banks including Bank Polska Kasa Opieki (Pekao) and Bank Zachodni which were recently up for sale.

According to Darius Gorski, analyst with Robert Fleming, the bank has lost more than half of its share of the corporate banking market since 1991. "In the early 1990s Handlowy was the flagship bank here with an 80% market share in corporate banking," he says. "They now have approximately 23% and are losing this to rivals."

Gorski says that Handlowy also has the slowest-growing balance sheet in Poland. Figures calculated using Polish accounting standards show it has gross profits for 1998 of Z465 million ($119 million) representing a fall of 46% on the previous year, while costs have crept up by 14% over the same period to reach Z532 million.

Its situation used to be very different. Until 1989 the bank had an enviable monopoly in foreign trade financing.

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