Best Bank: SEB Unibanka
Against a backdrop of incredible economic growth – GDP increased by 11.9% in 2006 and investment is almost a third of GDP – Latvian banks have performed strongly. SEB Unibanka is only the third-largest bank in Latvia after Nord LB and Parex and is some way behind those two in terms of assets, despite a 45% increase in assets in 2006. However, SEB Unibanka has enjoyed a strong year: in 2006, the group’s operating profit was 22% higher than in 2005 while operating costs increased just 9%, giving a cost/income ratio of 45.4%, down from 50.8% the previous year, and a return on equity of 27.2% – substantially more than its peers. The newly named SEB Enskilda – it was called SEB Vilfima until December 2006 – is now a fully fledged corporate finance unit and a more fully integrated part of SEB. The parent bank is building its operation in the Baltics aggressively and in December 2006 and January 2007, SEB Enskilda recruited the whole corporate finance team of Suprema Securities in Latvia.