Laszlo Diosi, CEO of OTP Bank Romania, says the lender is open to assess potential takeovers on the local market, as part of a wider acquisitions program agreed by the parent bank in the region.
What were the growth areas for the lender this year and what is the focus for 2014?
This year we have registered growth on the lending side, and we have stabilized the banking income and the costs. We have a very prudent approach to provisioning and our rate of non-performing loans is below the market average at 18 percent. We will continue to grow organically next year and we will continue lending in the retail segment, and to SMEs and corporates.
Do you plan to make acquisitions?
Our parent bank has already declared on numerous occasions that in Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Slovakia we also need to grow through acquisitions. So we discuss and analyze each opportunity. If we find a real opportunity to grow through acquisition, we have the money and we will do it.
What is your outlook for the local economy in 2014 and how can lenders boost financing for SMEs?
We believe that GDP will grow again between 2 and 3 percent, depending on the agricultural output. We hope in this election year to be able to maintain the stability of the budget.
We cooperate with very well with the National Fund for the Guarantee of Loans of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (FNGCIMM) and I know we will have RON 2 million (EUR 450,000) next year, which is a very good idea. There also needs to be other programs such as Kogalniceanu (e.n. a government program designed to help SMEs get loans at preferential costs).
It has been riskier for SMEs during the crisis, but since the crisis I think we understand this business better. Personally, I have seen crazy competition for clients that are SMEs.