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KBC: seeking a second home market

KBC demonstrates just what happens when deep pockets are used to address pressing commercial imperatives.

Despite its status as a relative newcomer to the markets of eastern and central Europe, KBC is rapidly making up for lost time.

Over the past four years, the Belgian bank has spent more than e2 billion ($2.18 billion) on strategic stakes in banks and insurers from around the region. In the process, KBC has demonstrated just what happens when deep pockets are drawn on to address pressing commercial imperatives.

"As a mid-sized European bank, there was an awareness among directors of the need to expand our domestic customer base," says Herman Agneessens, KBC's Brussels-based executive committee member. "Central and eastern Europe offered the ideal place in which to do it, provided we were able to manage the transition process on the one hand and the increased risk exposure on the other."

In seeking to create what bank officials call "a second home market", KBC has embarked on an aggressive expansion strategy based on acquiring shares in privatizing state-run banks and private-sector institutions. With stakes in Poland's Kredyt Bank and CSOB in the Czech Republic - to name but a few - KBC officials have spent heavily to develop their regional footprint.

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