Unibanka boosts earnings, eyes Moscow

  • 2003-02-20

Latvijas Unibanka posted audited consolidated profits of 13.5 million lats (21.5 million euros) for 2002, up by 16 percent over 2001 and highest among Latvian banks last year, a spokesman said.

The group's operational revenues last year were 41.4 million lats, up 9 percent over 2001.

Speaking about 2002 operations, Unibanka President Andris Berzins said, "We have made the record-high profit not only in the history of Unibanka, but in the history of the entire Latvian banking sector, which ensures us the title of the largest and best performing bank."

The Unibanka Group's assets swelled 20 percent over the year to 117.9 million lats while the group's capital and reserves at the end of the reporting year were 69.8 million lats.

The group's loan portfolio at the end of 2002 was 521.7 million lats, up 19 percent year-on-year.

"We have expanded lending to private individuals and mortgage lending sizeably over the past year," added bank Vice-President Ainars Ozols.

The mortgage loan portfolio at the end of the year was 81.8 million lats, he added.

Deposits at Unibanka grew by 51.9 million lats over 2002 to 384.1 million lats at the end of the year.

Apart from Unibanka, the group also comprises Unilizings, a leasing company, and Unipensija, a pension fund.

Unibanka is part of Scandinavia's SEB group. Its report for 2002 operations was audited by the Pricewaterhouse-Coopers auditing firm.

Moreover, in a separate statement the group announced that it plans to step up activities in Russia this year by opening a Moscow office in March or April, with the office expected to be headed by a representative of Latvijas Unibanka.

The chairman of Unibanka and head of the SEB Polish and Baltic state unit, Mats Kjaer, told reporters on Feb. 14 that a Baltic representative has been chosen for heading operations in Russia, as the Baltics have greater experience with the Russian market and have greater knowledge in business contacts and language.

Kjaer said that SEB may even open a banking branch in Russia in a few years, but this will depend on how successful the representational office is, as well as the overall market situation in Russia.

Kjaer said that SEB once had representation in czarist Russia and renewed these ties after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, after the Russian economic meltdown in 1998, the SEB office closed shop.

He also said that the SEB Group's Estonian Eesti Uhispank has been operating a leasing company in St. Petersburg for a while now, which is set to be given a kick start also this year.

He added that the Moscow office will mainly be dealing with consultancy and assisting in finding business clients for SEB clients in Moscow.