Thursday, 3 March 2022

RBA: Croatian Clients' Money And Assets Safe

ZAGREB, 3 March 2022 - Raiffeisenbank Austria (RBA) on Thursday underscored that the bank is not directly exposed nor is its business directed at the Russian or Ukraine markets, adding that its clients' money and assets in Croatia are safe.

Regarding Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) and its exposure to the Russian and Ukraine markets and its connection with the local RBA bank in Croatia, "all RBA bank services, products, all domestic and foreign payments, with the exception of those covered by sanctions, are accessible to clients."

RBA Croatia is one of 13 banks within the Austrian Raiffeisen Bank International Group (RBI) operating in central and eastern Europe, RBI said and added that based on experience over the past years, it has developed a proven approach to protect its clients.

The approach consists of conservative management of business activities, preventing the exposure of clients to any significant risk on the Croatian market. It includes a high level of liquidity and capital, which is significantly above that required by European regulators, and a very strict strategy resulting in self-sustainability.

RBA management board president Liana Keserić said that while it is witnessing the destructive consequences of the current conflict for Ukraine's residents, the bank is doing everything to offer its clients what responsible bankers are required to provide - a secure bank and secure access to money, products, and services.

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Thursday, 11 November 2021

One in Four Pays Over Half of Monthly Income for Housing Loan

ZAGREB, 11 Nov, 2021 - The average monthly housing loan installment for people who took out the loan between November 2020 and June 2021 ranges from 41 to 44% of their monthly income, according to a Croatian National Bank survey, Večernji List daily said on Thursday.

Housing loans total HRK 67 billion, up by over 10% year on year.

The high demand for real estate is accompanied by a constant rise in prices, which are up by six to seven percent. At this rate, the price of a square metre of a flat could double in ten years' time.

"Croatia is a country with too many motives for the high demand for properties, from the tax treatment, tourism and low interest rates to the moving of the capital of the extra rich from banks, the APN (Croatian Real Estate Agency), the fact that some indeed need a place to live, that some buy properties in companies' names to pay less taxes, and the presence of foreigners," Maruška Vizek of the Zagreb Institute of Economics told the daily.

"The market can't offer enough properties for so many motives for there to be a drop in prices. The only solution is an adequate tax treatment, which won't happen," she added.

The central bank is worried about potential risks and that the crisis might spill over to the banking sector. Governor Boris Vujčić said recently the prices of housing properties were increasing more than incomes but not construction costs. All of that increases the risks of their corrections in future.

Most of the new housing loans (28% of the principal) are paid out with debt-to-income ratios of 30 to 40%. For another 26% of debtors, the ratio is 40 to 50%. For as much as 23% of the new housing loans, the monthly payment is more than half the debtor's income, Večernji List said.

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Saturday, 5 June 2021

Sberbank Plans to Sell Fortenova in Two Years - Daily

ZAGREB, 5 June 2021 - Sberbank CEO Herman Gref has said the Russian bank's goal with Croatian conglomerate Fortenova Group is to increase its value and exit without losses in the next two years, as reported by the Moscow newspaper Vedomosti, the Jutarnji List daily reported on Saturday.

Gref was speaking about that at an international economic forum in Saint Petersburg and his announcement that Sberbank will sell its share in Fortenova within two years has been carried by Bloomberg, citing the Russian news agency RIA.

Sberbank was the biggest creditor of Croatia's now-defunct conglomerate Agrokor with €1.1 billion and now holds 44% in Fortenova Group, which was formed in April 2019 following a settlement reached by Agrokor's creditors.

Fortenova's consolidated revenue in 2020 totalled HRK 21 billion, while EBITDA was HRK 1.3 billion. It employs 50,000 people and is probably the biggest employer in the region.

Asked for a comment, Fortenova chairman of the board of directors Maksim Poletaev said on Friday that Gref's announcement was a continuation of what Sberbank had been saying since Agrokor was restructured and Fortenova Group was formed.

As a financial investor, Sberbank plans to sell its stake when the company's value grows, he added.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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Wednesday, 18 November 2020

EC to Review Possible Macroeconomic Imbalances in Croatia again

ZAGREB, Nov 18, 2020 - Croatia entered the COVID-19 crisis with vulnerabilities linked to the government, private sector, and external debt in a context of low potential growth, so the European Commission on Wednesday again recommended making an in-depth review to estimate macroeconomic imbalances.

In the Alert Mechanism Report, a screening device to detect potential macroeconomic imbalances, the Commission recommends that in-depth reviews to identify and assess the severity of possible macroeconomic imbalances should be prepared in 2021 for the same 12 member states that had already been identified as having imbalances or excessive imbalances in February 2020.

Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden have imbalances, while Cyprus, Greece, and Italy have excessive imbalances.

"With the COVID-19 crisis, debt ratios and unemployment are expected to increase. Overall, the Commission finds it opportune, also taking into account the identification of an imbalance in February, to examine further the persistence of imbalances or their unwinding," the report says about Croatia.

For several years until 2019, Croatia had excessive macroeconomic imbalances. In February of that year, the Commission established that the imbalances were no longer excessive.

Croatia's considerably negative net international investment position "continued improving in 2019 and the current account surplus increased towards 3% of GDP. Risks to external sustainability are alleviated by the relatively large share of FDI (foreign direct investment) in total foreign liabilities. The current account balance is expected to turn negative in 2020, much on account of the weak tourism," the Commission says in the latest report.

"The private sector debt ratio continued declining in 2019. The large share of debt remains denominated in foreign currency generating exchange rate risk," the Commission says.

"Real house price growth accelerated in 2019 to above 8%, supported by the accelerating growth in mortgage lending... House price growth is forecast to decelerate in light of the COVID-19 crisis."

"Government debt continued declining to a still relatively high 73% of GDP in 2019. In 2020 it is forecast to rise by more than 15 pps. due to the sharp economic downturn and measures to support the economy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic," according to the report.

"The banking sector is characterized by moderate profitability and relatively strong capitalization, but also relatively high, though declining, NPLs (non-performing loans). NPLs are likely to increase once government support measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis have been phased out."

"The unemployment rate reached an all-time low of 6.6% in 2019, accompanied by strong decreases in both long-term and youth unemployment. However, unemployment is forecast to increase with the current crisis," the Commission says.