Bank Austria Creditanstalt has started its activities in Macedonia with the opening of a representative office in Skopje. “By setting up this representative office we now have a presence in this market, too. This means that there is no white patch left on our map of Southeast Europe,” says Anton Knett, head of the Southeast Europe division of Bank Austria Creditanstalt.

With the new representative office, Bank Austria Creditanstalt makes the first step into Macedonia. Over the next few months the bank will explore local business opportunities and examine the possibilities of opening a banking subsidiary. The representative office will have a hub function: Bank Austria Creditanstalt gives Macedonian companies access to international markets and makes its full expertise available to these companies. On the other hand, the stabilisation of the country’s economy is attracting international investors planning to expand into the Macedonian market. Bank Austria Creditanstalt intends to serve these investors already at an early stage. Apart from the Balkan states, Austria and Germany are among Macedonia’s major trading partners and investors in the country.

The opening of the representative office in Macedonia is part of Bank Austria Creditanstalt’s targeted growth strategy in Southeast Europe. In the past year, the bank consistently continued its expansion in the region by acquiring Splitska Banka, the third-largest Croatian bank, in spring 2002, and Biochim, the fourth-largest bank in Bulgaria, in summer last year. Together with its local banking subsidiary, Bank Austria Creditanstalt now has a market share of over seven per cent in Bulgaria. In Serbia and Montenegro, Bank Austria Creditanstalt opened its banking subsidiary in December 2001. Another banking subsidiary was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina in September 2002.

“Southeast Europe is the growth market within the growth market,” says Knett. Compared with the previous year, total assets of Bank Austria Creditanstalt’s operations in the region of Southeast Europe more than doubled to €3.4bn. Within a single year, the number of customers in SEE rose from 69,000 to about 540,000.

Bank Austria Creditanstalt is by far the largest banking group in Austria, with total assets of €150bn. Since the early 1990s, the group has pursued a targeted strategy of expansion in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). This early commitment to the region has given the group clear advantages: today it operates the largest international network of banks in the region. As a member of the HVB Group, Bank Austria Creditanstalt is responsible for business development in the CEE markets. Its network in CEE currently comprises about 900 offices, with 21,400 employees serving 3.6 million customers. Following the establishment of the representative office in Macedonia, the group is now active in 16 countries in this region. Operations in CEE have total assets of €24bn. Its market share in the individual countries ranges between 5-10%.