RIGA-VILNIUS - Assets of Lithuanian banks grew 53.7 percent last year, outperforming growth in Latvia's sector, or 39.4 percent, though Latvian banks continue to maintain the largest aggregate assets among the three Baltic states.
Aggregate assets of Lithuania's 12 commercial banks and foreign branches comprised 44.8 billion litas (12.9 billion euros) at the end of December, a surge of 53.7 percent, the Bank of Lithuania has announced.
Meanwhile, assets of Latvian banks grew 39.4 percent to 10.9 billion lats (15.5 billion euros) at the end of December 2005, said the financial supervision body, the Finance and Capital Market Commission.
Loans issued by Latvian banks last year rose 58.9 percent to 6.9 billion lats (9.8 billion euros), or 63.6 percent of aggregate banking assets.
In Lithuania, the combined loan portfolio soared 53.6 percent to reach 25.9 billion litas as of late December. SEB Vilniaus Bankas, in conjunction with SEB VB Mortgage Bank, accounted for one-third of this, as their combined portfolio amounted to 8.7 billion litas.
But one of the big stories of the Baltic banking year was Hansabanka, which saw its assets skyrocket 72.4 percent to overtake Parex Bank for the largest Latvian bank in terms of assets.
Still, at the end of 2005 the aggregate assets of the three largest Latvian banks 's Hansabanka, SEB Latvijas Unibanka and Parex Bank 's accounted for 54.1 percent of the total assets in Latvian banks, data of the Latvian Commercial Bank Association showed.
At the end of 2005 there were 23 banks working in Latvia, including one branch of a foreign bank.
Last year assets declined for four Latvian banks, with Multibanka suffering the most drastic decrease.
The bank's assets shrunk 73.1 percent or 107.311 million lats, while in December Multibanka assets increased by 36.8 percent or 10.616 million lats. The bank has come under suspicion after having facilitated, or turned a blind eye toward, money laundering and was named as part of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In December Multibanka ranked 21st among Latvia's 23 banks.