The FINANCIAL — “The results of the first quarter are not fantastic, but there were some improvements in March and April, which will continue until the end of the year,” Gilbert Hie, CEO of Bank Republic, one of the largest banks of Georgia said during the press-conference last week. “In 2009 and 2008 we faced a difficult period, but now it seems that 2010 will be better,” Hie said.
“In 2010, we will continue our universal banking strategy to concentrate on both corporate and retail customers. We will support and help corporate customers and enterprises to revive commercial activity which is very important and on the individual side we will reactivate mortgage loans, reactivate consumer and micro financing. It is very important that Bank Republic is an active participant in all type of economic development that we will see in 2010,” Hie told The FINANCIAL.
According to Irakli Aslanishvili, Commercial Director of Bank Republic, the results of the first quarter for the whole banking sector in Georgia is not exceptional with its big financial results in the sight of profit. He believes that the results of the second quarter will be much better.
“We are very pleased with what we did over the last three years, and we are very optimistic about the future ,”Aslanishvili said.
“During the crisis, most of the problems in the bank were connected to the customers’ ability to pay back loans. Actually we dropped percents on loans and on corporate and micro business loans we decreased percents in January and February. That caused quite large activity on the side of crediting. The interest rate that our bank offers to its clients is very normal and much affects market demand,” Aslanishvili said.
According to Gilbert Hie, in 2010 the Bank will also continue its strategy to add branches to its network.
“Over the most recent period, we opened a branch on Freedom Square, one more in Kutaisi and now we opened a new branch on Tamar Mepe Avenue. Our network is still not fully completed. It will take time to complete it with a few other branches. We will probably slow down a bit the speed of expansion but we will continue anyway in order to have a network comparable to our main competitors,” Hie said.
“It is very important for us to be close to our customers and to be able to distribute all kinds of product and services to customers in all the areas of Tbilisi and in the regions. First of all our strategy is to enlarge our network in order to be closer to our customers. We actually open branches in Tbilisi because we want to have our branches in each of the strategic places in Tbilisi,” Aslanishvili said.
According to Aslanishvili, the Bank started building the Tamar Mepe Avenue branch 10 months ago and 1.5 million GEL was put in to it. The next branch of Bank Republic is supposed to be opened in the Varketili region.
“It is our brand new branch. We hope that we will have a good opportunity to expand our network again in the future. Our competitor’s have bigger networks than us so it is very important to catch up with them in this respect,” Hie said.
“Our bank’s strategy is to acquire or become an owner of its entire network, but in some places we have no opportunity to buy, so in that case we prefer to rent. We are a long term investor in the country and mostly our priority is for acquisitions,” Hie said.
Mr. Hie believes that the most successful activities this year have been in corporate banking. He thinks that the negative trend has already been left behind and now the year 2010 seems to be more positive.