Swedbank to expand Baltic activity

  • 1998-12-10
RIGA (BNS) - Sweden's Swedbank intends to expand its activities in the Nordic countries and other states of the Baltic Sea region.

Lars-Olof Odlund, Swedbank's senior counselor, said "Currently we work with some 4.5 million individual customers but we do not think that it will be sufficient in the future, therefore we are looking to other Nordic and also Baltic countries."

Swedbank already owns stakes in Norwegian, Finnish, Estonian, Latvian and Polish commercial banks. Swedbank owns 60 percent of Estonia's Hansapank, and through it Hansabank-Latvia.

Odlund would not say what the bank's plans were concerning Lithuania but added that Swedbank was evaluating the market.

Latvia's admission to the World Trade Organization will facilitate the growth of trade and services, and will require banks to offer more services to clients involved in global trade.

"We see not only goods but also information, capital, people and services flowing across the borders," said Odlund. "Therefore we have to consolidate to be able to offer this international community an increasing variety of services."

Swedbank believes that banking should be local as people usually prefer dealing with the banks of their own country. This is one of the reasons why Swedbank wants to develop close cooperation with a local bank. Odlund said that cooperation should focus on areas that would require large investments in the future and be related to information technologies.

"We do not want majority holdings in those banks, but we think that we should have some representation in the management," he said.

Although Swedbank holds about 60 percent of Hansapank stocks, it plans to sell almost 30 percent of its holdings to three or four strong investors interested in operating in the Baltic market.