Central & eastern Europe
The Austrian powerhouses continue to make considerable investments in the region. Salomon Smith Barney is the most successful M&A house. Simon Brady, David Shirreff
Best domestic bank: Bulbank
Best foreign bank: Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria
Best domestic securities house: Bulbank
Best foreign securities house: Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria
Best foreign M&A house: CA IB Investmentbank
Bulbank is Bulgaria's largest commercial bank, with a 27% share of the assets of the banking system. It also accounts for around 50% of banking profits. During 1999 the bank continued to expand, achieving a return on assets of 3.2% compared with 2.3% in 1998. Its return on equity improved to 15.6% from 12.4%.
Its BIS capital adequacy ratio is a high 43% but that is mostly because its government-risk assets are weighted at zero and its deposits with international banks at 20%. During the year Bulbank grew its loan portfolio by 76% but this represented an increase of only 10% in its total assets.
The volatility of the bank's portfolio became evident in 1998 when the price of the Zunk bonds fell dramatically during the Russian crisis. In addition, its foreign exchange income fell after the introduction of a currency board, and the sharp fall in inflation and the relative macroeconomic stability resulted in tight interest margins.