This is expected because experts claim that 29 banks are too much for a country whose gross domestic product last year was less than 37 billion euros. But it is unexpected because foreign banks have previously been bought by the existing domestic banks and recently bought foreign-owned banks from domestic businessmen.
Miodrag Kostic, who in the meantime became the 100-year-old owner of AIK Bank, withdrew for the first step to acquire the Alpha Bank.
Last year AIK Bank was the first in Serbia for a net profit of 118 million euros, the fourth for the capital of half a billion euros and the sixth for a total of approved loans of nearly 1.8 billion euros.
New players in this market are Andrej Jovanovic and Bojan Milovanovic, who first bought the Serbian branch of Nova kreditna banka Maribor, changed its name to the Direct Bank and then "bribed" Pireus and Findomestik Bank.
Before joining Piraeus at the end of 2017, the Direct Bank was the tenth with a profit of 16 million euros, and in the 19th place after participation in the total assets of 0.8 percent (the share of Pireus Bank was 1.5 percent) and in terms of the amount of capital of 33 million euros, while the capital of Pireus Bank is three times as high, 108 million euros.
Many will probably not even remember that more than 80 banks operated in Serbia twenty years ago, almost all with domestic capital. Already in 2004 their number dropped to 47, and this trend continued, although new "players", such as Bank of China or Mira Bank from the United Arab Emirates, arrived in the meantime.
In professional circles there is almost a consensus that the banking market of Serbia is still tightening, because banks with a market share of less than a two percent can barely survive in all the more difficult game.
Currently there are no less than 14 banks with a market share of less than 1.5 percent. All approved only 7.5% of the total loans, while the shares of the six largest banks, Intesa, Komercijalna banka, Unnikredit, Societe Generale, Raiffeisen and AIK banka were eight times higher – 62.2%.
Almost everyone in the big six has a larger share of 14 small banks. That is why the economic journalist Miško Brkić is reminiscent of the forces in the Serbian banking market that are reminiscent of six "Guliver" and "Liliputans".
He is convinced that part of the existing banks will eventually be the target of the acquisition. The Minister of Finance, Sinisa Mali, has already announced that the state is planning to sell its share in Jubmes Bank, Komercijalna, by the end of this year, and the strategy for the Serbian Bank is being prepared. Moreover, the public recommends for months which the Société Générale Bank could buy, because this French group has already withdrawn from the Croatian market.
"I'm not sure it will survive in ten old banks with a market share of less than 0.4 percent, of which even six ended last year with net losses, as long as their shareholders still have the patience to cover those minuses Because of all this, I would not be surprised if the balance of power in the banking sector changed dramatically in the near future, but before something similar happens in other countries, "Brkic said.
In favor of this thesis there is also a low degree of concentration on the Serbian market. In Croatia, the four largest banks account for almost 70% of total assets, and in Serbia the four largest banks have approved around 47% of all loans. That is why Ivan Nikolic, a member of the Board of Governors of the National Bank of Serbia, believes that consolidation is not only expected but also desirable.
"This is a positive process because it will increase performance and strengthen competition between banks, and this will bring benefits to customers because they will provide cheaper loans," said Nikolic, who recently told the Beta Bureau that he was does not see in the fact that banks buy domestic investors. Earlier, says NBS Council member, "has learned experience that foreign owners are not always successful".
In the group of six of the largest there are currently only two banks with predominantly domestic capital, Komercijalna and AIK banka, with the rapid moment that the "book" can only store one letter, because the state is already looking for a buyer for Komercijalna Banka.
If you look at the results of the company for 2017, AIK Bank has the highest amount for the purchase of new banks, which reported a net profit of 118 million euros last year. Moreover, Miodrag Kostic has already shown clear intentions for further expansion in both Serbia and the region.
He is practically the only businessman from Serbia who, in a certain sense, has already invaded the EU as co-owner of Gorenjska banka. That is why it is now possible for AIK Bank customers to offer additional benefits and facilitate their business with EU partners and through a bank in Slovenia.
The approval of the European and Slovenian central banks for the acquisition of the majority stake in Gorenjska banka for Kostic is a confirmation from the highest position that its AIK bank is wealthy, stable and liquid, and these are features that make savings accounts more and more themselves, especially if interest rates are at the historically lowest level.