CEE across the decades

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By:
Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker
Published on:

From communism to unbridled capitalism, from command economy to chaos to convergence, Euromoney’s coverage provides a unique insight into an unparalleled half-century in emerging Europe.

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IN ADDITION

The 1970s

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Banking on east-west trade (January 1971)

A high-level Soviet delegation visited London to drum up funding for domestic mining projects, while western banks continued year-long negotiations to be the first to open a rep office in Moscow since 1917

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What Chase will do in Moscow (February 1973)

After Chase Manhattan won the race to be the first US bank to set up shop in the Soviet Union, the head of the US bank’s new Moscow office wrote about his plans to facilitate East-West trade and “open commercial information channels”

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Hungary’s Marxist economist and central banker, János Fekete (January 1977)

In the 1970s, Hungary was the darling of the Euromarkets for its economic reforms and investor-friendly approach. Euromoney editor Padraic Fallon went to Budapest to meet János Fekete, the acceptable face of communism

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Will the IMF and the banks make an example of Turkey? (September 1977)

As Turkey struggled to service its external debt, Euromoney asked if Western banks would deliver on promises to withhold financing from governments that failed to follow the IMF’s prescriptions for reform

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Me first, comrade (November 1977)

Comecon’s International Investment Bank and the USSR’s Vneshtorgbank – forerunner of today’s VTB – were racing each other into the Euromarkets just as Western banks started to reach their limits on lending to the Eastern Bloc


The 1980s

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Woloszyn’s fight for Poland (October 1980)

As the Polish government struggled to deal with a rising labour movement and a deteriorating economy, Bank Handlowy veteran Jan Woloszyn – ‘Mr Poland’ to Western investors – faced the daunting task of refinancing the country’s rising debt burden

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Yugoslavia’s fund-raising marathon (November 1980)

Yugoslavia needed $2 billion in funding and central bank governor Ksente Bogoev was the man charged with securing it. After three months on the road he came to London, where Euromoney got the lowdown on the process from bankers and state officials 

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The secrets of the Polish memorandum (August 1981)

After months of in-fighting, Poland’s Western bank creditors had finally managed to reach agreement on a debt restructuring that imposed extraordinary conditions on the Polish government. Euromoney had the details

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Reforms aren’t fostering a capital market – yet (May 1986)

In the reformist Budapest of the late 1980s, villas were elegant, banks were competitive and factories were making profits. But, as Euromoney discovered, the state was still firmly in control of Hungary’s fledgling market economy

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Moscow’s mighty debt machine (January 1987)

The first signs of economic reform were emerging in the Soviet Union and Western banks were queuing up to provide financing – but, as David Shirreff discovered, communist officials were still reluctant to divulge details of government borrowing

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Russia’s banking revolution (December 1989)

With the help of Gosbank officials, Euromoney compiled a full list of the first 196 commercial and cooperative banks to receive licences under the new Soviet law – only “a couple of dozen” of which were apparently up and running at the time


The 1990s

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What the Soviet banker said (January 1990)

A new generation of bankers was emerging in the Soviet Union, but the old guard was still in control. Euromoney turned heads in Moscow in a white Mercedes, before sitting down for a tense lunch with two cooperative bankers and a Gosbank representative 

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If Russia gets it right… (September 1994)

“Forget the imploding economy, the inter-company debt, the corruption and the thievery,” by 1994, Russia had voucher privatization, pyramid schemes and 2,400 banks. Yet the first signs of a modern financial sector were starting to emerge

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Russia’s new investment banks (July 1995)

What did you need to start a Russian investment bank in 1995? Experts told Euromoney there were four key ingredients for success: a reliable local partner, good distribution in the West, bilingual traders and a chief executive schooled on Wall Street but at home in Russia

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Time to clean things up (November 1996)

“It behaves like no other market on earth, driven by forces few can understand.” Euromoney held its nose and took a deep dive into the gloriously chaotic Turkish stock market of the 1990s, a hotbed of insider trading, front-running and misleading newspaper reports 

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Austria: on the trail of the Habsburgs (January 1999)

Ten years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall, Austrian banks had already established themselves as the leading empire builders in new Europe. We reported on the territorial ambitions of Erste, RZB and the newly merged Bank Austria-Creditanstalt

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Problems for sale (November 1999)

“Want to buy a bank stacked full of bad loans and losing money?” Our feature on the travails of the Czech banking sector and economy at the turn of the century is a useful reminder that the eventual winners of transition weren’t obvious at the time


The 2000s

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How to engineer a financial gallows (April 2001)

Decades of corruption and mismanagement finally caught up with Turkey’s banks at the start of the century when politicians ran out of cash to prop up state lenders. Accusations, recriminations and arrests ensued as an overdue clean-up got underway

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Bank reform takes on a new urgency (September 2004)

A recurring theme of Euromoney’s Russia coverage in the early 2000s was the need to reform the country’s sprawling and mismanaged banking sector – but when the central bank did finally flex its muscles, it sparked a mini-crisis

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Romanian banking: what a difference three years makes (May 2006)

With most of the biggest bank privatizations in emerging Europe already completed, Western groups fought tooth and nail to secure the last remaining assets. We told the inside story of the battle for Romania’s BCR 

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OTP: predator or prey (September 2006)

When Euromoney met legendary OTP chairman Sándor Csányi in 2006, the Hungarian lender was the only home-grown regional banking champion in central and eastern Europe – and 13 years on, that is still the case. Kathryn Wells investigated the bank’s remarkable rise

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Raiffeisen’s Stepic refines his recipe for emerging Europe (May 2007)

In 20 years, Raiffeisen International founder Herbert Stepic turned an Austrian also-ran into an emerging European banking leader. Euromoney spoke to the banker known to domestic fans as “Der Cash-Man”

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EBRD returns to the limelight (May 2009)

Never in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s history had central and eastern Europe needed its support more. President Thomas Mirow explained the bank’s plans to head off the threat of recession to Sudip Roy


The 2010s

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Budapest Blues (Nov 2010)

Hungary’s banks had a really bad start to the decade. Huge portfolios of FX mortgages had gone sour, stoking popular anti-bank sentiment, while the new Fidesz government had slapped a hefty levy on the sector. Gloomy bankers in Budapest talked to Euromoney about their fears for the future

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Sberbank: Gref’s great expectations (May 2013)

The days when Sberbank was building a European empire and hoping to take on the bulge bracket in investment banking seem a long way away. Chief executive German Gref’s fight to transform a clunking Soviet-era behemoth into a digital pioneer, however, is as relevant today as it was pre-Crimea

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Inside Ukraine’s economic crisis (June 2014)

Three months after Viktor Yanukovych was deposed, Euromoney tracked down the reformers trying to overhaul Ukraine’s corrupt and battered economy in a feature that captured the chaos and euphoria of post-Maidan Kyiv

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Mugur Isarescu: Romania’s central figure (February 2015)

Romanian finance ministers have the life span of mayflies. The one Euromoney spoke to in late 2014 was sacked days later, after only nine months in post. Fortunately the country’s legendary central bank governor, Mugur Isarescu, has more staying power

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Sevelda’s struggle (May 2015)

As the fallout from the Ukrainian crisis began to bite and Russia slid into recession, Raiffeisen Bank International faced rising bad debts and a dangerous capital shortfall. Caretaker chief executive Karl Sevelda had a mountain to climb. Was he up to the challenge? 

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Latvia looks beyond its big bank clean-up (September 2016)

Eighteen months before Latvia hit global headlines when US authorities called time on ABLV Bank, Euromoney went to Riga to look into the Baltic state’s first attempts to wean its non-resident banks off risky cash from Russia and CIS – and found a sector in deep denial