UniCredit's CEE network
Central and eastern Europe are a key division to UniCredit’s future success. Comprising 20 countries, with a regional market share of about 18%, historically the bank has grown its presence more through acquisition than organic growth.
UniCredit’s most recent deals were in Ukraine and Kazakhstan. In July 2007, it agreed to buy 95% of Ukraine’s Ukrsotsbank from Interpipe Group for $2.2 billion. Also last year, UniCredit bought a majority shareholding in Kazakhstan’s ATF Bank for $2.3 billion. Although both deals made sense – they provide the Italian firm with a foothold in the nascent banking markets in the region – analysts believe they came at a price.
"We believe the acquisition was expensive," was the judgment of Alessandro Roccati, analyst at Fox-Pitt Kelton Cochran Caronia Waller of the Ukrsotsbank transaction.
He is critical of the ATF deal too. "We believe the deal makes strategic sense but was done at the wrong time and at the wrong price," he says.
Erich Hampel, head of the CEE division at UniCredit, says: "Such deals always have to be evaluated in the medium to long term. Taking into account that the Kazakh market is expected to be one of the fast-growing markets in the region, we believe the price was fair."
These acquisitions are likely to be the last for a few years at least.