Chief Correspondent, Vienna, Vienna
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Aug 6, 2014

Bank Austria says can prosper in Russia despite sanctions

VIENNA, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Bank Austria, the central and
eastern Europe (CEE) arm of Italian bank UniCredit, expects to
keep making solid profits in Russia despite Western sanctions,
thanks in part to its ability to raise money locally, though it
warned of lost opportunities.

Bank Austria’s first-half pretax profit in Russia rose 3
percent to 247 million euros ($330 million), more than a quarter
of the total and making it the bank’s single most profitable
market. Russia also accounted for most of its CEE loan growth in
the period, officials told a news conference on Wednesday.

Jul 31, 2014

Erste Group aims to turn page after record 2014 loss

VIENNA, July 31 (Reuters) – Austria’s Erste Group Bank
said on Thursday that it has sought to clean up all
its balance sheet problems this year but cannot exclude further
political obstacles in its central and eastern European markets.

Emerging Europe’s third-biggest lender bit the bullet by
writing down businesses in Romania and Croatia and setting aside
an initial 130 million euros for a Hungarian law forcing banks
to compensate customers for mispriced loans, triggering a 1.03
billion euro ($1.38 billion) second-quarter loss on its way to
record red ink in 2014.

Jul 30, 2014

Russian bank subsidiaries in EU to escape sanctions: sources

VIENNA/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Russian bank subsidiaries based in the European Union will be exempt from EU economic sanctions designed to choke off finance for big state-owned Russian lenders, sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters on Wednesday.

These sources said the exemption, which EU officials said they would monitor closely to avoid abuse, meant Sberbank and VTB subsidiaries could operate normally within EU member states.

Jul 29, 2014

Austrian business grits teeth, would back Russia sanctions

VIENNA, July 29 (Reuters) – Austrian businesses would back
tougher economic sanctions against Russia should Europe go down
that path, even though such measures will likely be
counterproductive, the head of the country’s Chamber of Commerce
said on Tuesday.

Christoph Leitl, one of Austria’s most vocal opponents of
levelling tough sanctions against Moscow over its role in
Ukraine’s crisis, told Reuters he could not estimate the
economic impact of stepped-up economic pressure on Russia.

Jul 8, 2014

Three suitors in race for Hypo’s Balkans business – sources

VIENNA, July 8 (Reuters) – Three main suitors are in the
running to buy the Balkans network of nationalised Austrian bank
Hypo Alpe Adria, a deal that could be signed before
the end of July, several sources close to the sale told Reuters.

Hypo’s network in southeast Europe is considered its prime
asset. The bank, nationalised in 2009 to avoid a collapse that
would have sent shock waves through the region, is winding down
its other businesses.

Jul 8, 2014

Austrian lower house approves Hypo haircut law

VIENNA, July 8 (Reuters) – The lower house of Austria’s
parliament approved legislation on Tuesday that would wipe out
some subordinated creditors of nationalised lender Hypo Alpe
Adria despite guarantees from its home province, entering
uncharted territory for debt markets.

The government insists its move, which still needs to pass
the upper house and be signed by the president, is a one-off
step to ensure Hypo investors help pay to wind down a bank that
has cost 5.5 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in public aid so far.

Jul 7, 2014

Austrian banks should stay in eastern Europe-central bank

VIENNA, July 7 (Reuters) – Austrian banks should stay in
eastern Europe but need to heed risks and bolster their balance
sheets to compete with more strongly capitalised rivals, the
country’s central bank said on Monday.

Last week, Erste Group, emerging Europe’s
third-biggest lender, highlighted the riskiness of doing
business in the region when it warned that new hits to its
business from Romania and Hungary would lead to a record 2014

Jul 6, 2014

Hypo creditor plan casts shadow over Austrian borrowers

VIENNA, July 7 (Reuters) – Austria’s plan to wipe out some
Hypo Alpe Adria creditors, despite guarantees from the
nationalised bank’s home province of Carinthia, could drive up
borrowing costs for other state-backed firms, including
utilities and health agencies.

Vienna insists its move, set to be approved by the lower
house of parliament on Tuesday, is a one-off step tailor made to
ensure that investors in Hypo – not just taxpayers – help to
shoulder the financial burden of winding down a bank that has
sucked in 5.5 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in public aid so far.

Jul 4, 2014

Investors punish Erste for new emerging Europe hit

VIENNA, July 4 (Reuters) – Investors wiped more than 1
billion euros ($1.4 billion) off Erste Group Bank’s
stock market value on Friday after emerging Europe’s
third-biggest lender warned that fresh hits from Romania and
Hungary would drive it to a record 2014 loss.

The news was a fresh reminder of the perils of operating in
central and eastern Europe, a region that generated fat profit
margins for banks for years after the Iron Curtain fell but now
causes more headaches as the region’s economy struggles.

Jul 3, 2014

Hungary, Romania to push Erste to record 2014 loss

VIENNA, July 3 (Reuters) – Fresh hits from Hungary and
Romania will push Austria’s Erste Group Bank to a
record 2014 net loss of up to 1.6 billion euros ($2.2 billion),
emerging Europe’s third-biggest lender said on Thursday.

It said it expected risk costs to rise from a planned 1.7
billion euros to about 2.4 billion this year, while its group
operating result would slightly miss guidance this year “due to
weaker operating results in Romania and Hungary”.

    • About Michael

      "Mike has worked for Reuters for two decades and reported from more than a dozen countries on business and general news. His beats have included covering the European automotive industry, business news from Switzerland, German defense and security policy, and Hungary's transition to a market democracy after the collapse of communism in eastern Europe"
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