March 13, 2019 / 8:34 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-Austria's Raiffeisen looking for acquisitions, committed to Russia

(Rewrites)

VIENNA, March 13 (Reuters) - Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) said on Wednesday it was considering acquisitions to expand in its main markets and remained committed to Russia, after facing allegations related to a money laundering scandal involving Russian funds.

The Austrian lender, which operates across east Europe from the Czech Republic to Russia and down to the Balkans, wanted to be active in banking consolidation underway in some countries, Chief Executive Johann Strobl said in the annual report.

“This may entail organic growth and potential acquisitions of portfolios or small banks should a suitable opportunity arise and the price be right,” he said.

RBI, one of several European banks facing allegations of involvement in a Baltic money laundering scandal and of failing to prevent tainted Russian money flowing through their branches across the world, reaffirmed its commitment to Russia.

Strobl said Russia “is - and will remain - an important market for RBI.”

RBI is one of the biggest foreign lenders in Russia and has lost more than 1 billion euros in market capitalisation since the allegations were made on March 5 in a report by a collective of European news outlets, called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

The bank has said it was “not familiar with the concrete allegations and does not have any further information on the content of the complaint”. The bank said it was conducting an internal investigation.

Strobl said RBI needed to re-evaluate its operations in Romania after the government imposed a new bank tax last year.

The bank said in its report that the new tax could not be quantified yet.

Raiffeisen holds 8.97 billion euros ($10.12 billion), or around 6 percent of its assets, in Romania.

Strobl said in January he expected the new tax to weigh on its Romanian unit’s Tier 1 Capital Ratio by 30 basis points per quarter.

Local rival Erste Group, which has the biggest exposure of the main European banks in Romania and gets 8 percent of its revenues from the country’s top lender Banca Comerciala Romana, has set aside more than 100 million euros for the new Romanian tax.

$1 = 0.8861 euros Reporting by Kirsti Knolle Editing by Thomas Seythal and Edmund Blair

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