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SKB Bank Marking 10th Anniversary Under French Ownership

Ljubljana, 27 May (STA) - The management of the SKB banka, the Slovenian subsidiary of Societe Generale, addressed the press on Friday to mark the bank's 10th anniversary under the French ownership. The chairman of the management Cvetka Selsek said the decision for foreign ownership was the right one, bringing a complete overhaul of the bank.

Selsek believes that the Slovenian banking system, in which Austria and Germany dominated foreign investments, needed new and fresh patterns of banking, and that the French ownership has proved to be good.

The bank has managed to increase the number of individual clients from 150,000 to more than 200,000, the number of company clients from 10,000 to over 20,000, and increased loans to individuals fivefold, she added.

General manager of the International Retail Banking Division Jean-Louis Mattei said that the group, in order to realise its plans in the region, would have to expand primarily on larger markets, but added that the plans for Slovenia were not neglected.

According to SKB banka executive director Andre-Marc Prudent, the bank's goal is to increase the number of clients in Slovenia from the current 220,000 to 230,000 by 2015. He admitted this would be a very hard task on the small and competitive Slovenian market.

SKB banka has been mentioned lately as a potential buyer of a majority stake in the Banka Celje bank, which is being sold by the NLB bank, and of a combined 49.43% stake in the Abanka bank held by the Sava conglomerate and insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav.

Societe Generale acquired the SKB banka in 2001, in what was one of the biggest foreign investments in the Slovenian banking sector, by merging it with the Societe Generale Ljubljana bank.

Prudent noted that since the acquisition, the bank had provided the Slovenian economy with EUR 915m of long-term loans, adding that the bank was also supporting Slovenian companies in entering markets where the Societe Generale group is present.

The bank made a record net profit in 2010, amounting to EUR 28.3m, which is 36.5% more than in the year before. Prudent said this was also the best result among all banks in Slovenia in 2010, adding that in the last five years, the bank's profits grew by 15% a year on average.

The Societe Generale group is present on 14 markets in Central and Eastern Europe, providing services to 9.7 million clients. The group wants to become one of the three largest banks in the region and expand the number of clients to 20 million by 2015.

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