Author:Simon Brady, David Shirreff
Best Domestic Bank: National Bank of Greece
Best Foreign Bank: Citibank
Best Domestic Securities House: National Bank of Greece
Best Foreign Securities House: CSFB
Best Foreign Bond House: UBS Warburg
The country's largest bank, National Bank of Greece, has traditionally been hampered by state ownership, but in the past three years it has steadily shed its sleepy, politicized image, consolidating its sprawling 173-company group and investing heavily in new technology. It was further privatized via a e208.7 million ($227.1 million) secondary offering in October 1999. And it has reduced its investments in non-core holdings.
The results? Pre-tax profits almost doubled from 1998 to 1999 (year end December 31). Reported return on equity was 39.1%. Tier I capital rose from 8.8% in 1998 to 14.4% in 1999. And the bank's net interest margin is forecast at around 3.2%.
Citibank, with a 35 branch network (to be expanded to between 80 and 100 in the next four years) is viewed domestically as a prestigious local retailing operation. This franchise has 15.4% of the credit card market and a 9% share of consumer loans (the market leader has 25%) making it the most successful foreign bank in this sector. The tie-up with Salomon Smith Barney also allows the bank to create and distribute new products.