Banks center of attraction on Baltic bourses

  • 1999-08-26
Bank stocks were at the center of attention last week on all three Baltic bourses. Despite the cautionary statements by Moody's Investors Service about the investments made by Swedish banks in the Baltics, Skan-dinavska Enskilda Banken remains confident in the future here, announcing it has increased its stake in Latvia's Unibanka to 50.4 percent and intends to take majority stakes in Estonia's Uhispank and Lithu-ania's Vilniaus Bankas .

SEB's announcement will no doubt increase interest in the shares of all three banks, as well as in Hermis Bank, which is in merger talks with Vilniaus Bankas. In addition to SEB's banks, Hansapank's share price also has a good chance of climbing. Last week the bank's affiliated brokerage company forecast Hansapank's share price would almost double to 125 kroons. Sweden's Swedbank owns nearly half of Hansapank.

There has also been a feverish speculative interest in shares in Estonia's Optiva Bank. The Bank of Estonia was finally forced to admit that it was indeed holding talks with several potential buyers for the stake the central bank previously took in Optiva to keep it from sinking into bankruptcy.