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CEE banking: Heaven or hell

A proposed tie-up between UniCredit and Société Générale would be a real game changer in the region: complementary and challenging.


It has been a long time since the last big realignment among the large regional banks in central and eastern Europe

Over the last decade there has been some trimming of networks in the more remote parts of the region, a few exits from unprofitable or subscale markets and a couple of reluctant departures from Poland – but by and large things have stayed as they were when the music stopped in 2008.

Now, as then, the key players nearly all hail from western European – UniCredit, Erste, Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI), Société Générale, KBC and Intesa Sanpaolo. 

RBI has retained the broadest geographical reach. Following the sale of its Polish operation to BNP Paribas, which was announced in April, the Austrian group will have subsidiaries in 13 countries. UniCredit, Société Générale and Intesa each boast 10. Erste and KBC have six and four respectively. 

By balance-sheet exposure, however, Erste currently leads the way after overtaking UniCredit when the latter sold Bank Pekao in Poland at the end of 2016. The Austrian group had total CEE assets of €101 billion at the end of December, according to RBI analysts. 

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