Estonian success story eyes new opportunities

  • 2001-12-06
  • Kairi Kurm, TALLINN
Trigon Capital, Estonia's largest investment bank, sold a fifth of its shares to Finland's Jouhki business dynasty on Nov. 27, announced Trigon chairman Joakim Helenius.

The sale will finance the bank's expansion in Central and Eastern Europe and increase its access to potential clients in Scandinavia, he said.

The Jouhki family's Thominvest Group paid 46.6 million kroons ($ 2.6 million) for a 21.26 percent stake in the bank, which until 1999 was known as Hansa Investments and was 50 percent owned by leading retail bank Hansapank.

In 1999 Helenius, a Finnish businessman with previous experience at such heavyweight financial houses as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, increased his stake in Trigon Capital to 69 percent.

"The Jouhki family invested here because they thought they could get a good return on their investment," he told reporters this week.

"It's a profitable business, and the value of their investment should grow dramatically."

Last year Trigon Capital made a 30 million kroon profit on a 50 million kroon turnover, after incurring losses in the two previous years.

Helenius predicted that by the end of 2004 Trigon's profit would reach 100 million kroons as it vied with leading providers of corporate financial services in Central and Eastern Europe.

"In two or three years we should expand to the rest of Central Europe, mostly offering finance for cross-border acquisitions and advising," he said. "We are not planning to set up brokerage operations there."

With offices already operating in Tallinn, Warsaw, and St. Petersburg, as well as representations in Riga and Vilnius, Trigon plans to open a regional center in Budapest and offices in Prague, Bratislava, Belgrade and Sofia.

Helenius believes that the countries preparing for European Union membership offer some of the most promising medium-term economic prospects in the world, a potential largely being overlooked by a global financial services industry only interested in the biggest deals in straitened times.

Trigon's competitors in Estonia are Suprema, Baltic Cresco Investment Group, LHV Direct and a string of local commercial banks.

Peeter Saks, chairman of Suprema, which was named best Baltic investment bank in 2000 by the international business magazine Euromoney, declined to comment on his competitor's operations.

Suprema sees no reason to expand beyond its present Baltic market, he said.

Euromoney named Trigon Capital Estonia's best equity and best mergers and acquisitions house of 2001.

Although the company has the necessary funds to expand, another new investor, perhaps from Asia or America, could join the team in the future, said Helenius.