Bank atlas 2001: Europeans infiltrate ranks of world's biggest banks
Mergers drive many of the changes in the annual rankings of banks by shareholders’ equity. American and Japanese groups retain the top spots. But European banks have the market capitalizations to grow further through acquisition. By Andrew Newby, data from Moody’s.
The degree of concentration in the banking sector continues to differ across countries, ranging from highly-consolidated markets in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands and Sweden, through intermediate cases like the UK and Switzerland, to more dispersed market shares in Germany and the United States - where the number of banks has nevertheless fallen by 40% since 1979. Despite this drive for size there have so far been relatively few major international bank mergers in Europe, though Belgian and Swiss firms have traditionally been active in cross-border and cross-industry transactions.
A number of these deals last year took place in Scandinavia, where highlights included the acquisition by Nordea (49) of both Christiana Bank and Unidanmark in November 2000. Internet initiatives by SEB (96) in Denmark and Germany followed its integration last January of BfG Bank, Germany's fifth largest private bank.
There are now 19 banks with an equity market capitalization in excess of $40 billion. 10 of those are European, of which six are presently among the 10 largest banks in the world by market cap.