Montenegro: Erste & Steiermarkische Bank and Opportunity International Initiate ...

Dec 2008
Podgorica, Montenegro, December, 03 2008 - Erste & Steiermärkische Bank (“ESB”) and Opportunity International, a US-based non-profit microfinance organization, have announced today the first step in potential future cooperation. As a part of this cooperation, ESB will acquire 100% of Opportunity Bank Montenegro (“OBM”), Opportunity International’s microfinance subsidiary in the country.

The arrangement also envisages funding support to Opportunity Bank Montenegro which will further strengthen the position of the bank in the market and provide an excellent platform for ongoing future lending growth and business development.

Grown out of a microfinance institution founded in 1999, Opportunity Bank Montenegro is now the most advanced of the organizations supported by Opportunity International.  As a result of its unparalleled microfinance expertise, Opportunity Bank is a market leader in small business lending in Montenegro, having a dominant market share of around 50%.  With microfinance and small business lending being the main focus of its operations, Opportunity Bank Montenegro has developed a variety of services for the private sector including SME, consumer, deposit and operational products.  The bank held total assets of over €182 million as of September 30, 2008. Profit of €3.8 million leads to a very strong annualized return on equity of almost 30% confirming OBM’s unparalleled position on the Montenegrin market.

An Opportunity International representative will continue to support the partnership from a position in the Supervisory Board of OBM even after closing of the transaction. Opportunity Bank Montenegro is envisaged to represent the platform for further regional roll-out of this business segment, while ESB facilitates access to additional liquidity and funding for Opportunity Bank’s domestic market expansion into a fully-fledged commercial banking institution.

About OI:

Opportunity International, a US non-governmental organisation with the mission of making an impact on the economy by establishing microfinance institutions in order to spur development in emerging markets, has operations in 28 countries on 4 continents, including the SEE region. Opportunity International provides, via its microfinance institutions and banks, access to small loans to the working poor, individuals with entrepreneurial spirit and small businesses that have sound business concepts, but are not banked by incumbent institutions. The provision of small, collateral-free loans to the poor in developing nations has been expanded over time to a broader range of services such as savings and insurance. Opportunity International currently serves over 1.2 million clients and is making strides toward a new goal of helping 100 million people out of poverty by 2015.

About ESB:

ESB is a universal bank geared to retail customers and small and medium-sized businesses. With a market share of approx. 12%, it is the third largest Croatian bank by total assets. The bank is serving about 700,000 clients through 118 branches. ESB is listed on the Zagreb Stock Exchange; its major shareholders are Erste Group Bank AG (55.1%) and Steiermärkische Bank und Sparkassen AG (41.0%). The bank especially stands out by its innovations and customer care, continuously working on expanding the range of services and products for customers, and constantly raising service quality.

ESB is the one of the best banks in Croatia according to market research of satisfaction of clients in Croatia. Also, the Bank got the prestigious award of Croatian Chamber of Commerce called "Zlatna kuna" (Golden Marten) for the best bank in Croatia in year 2005 and year 2006.

About Opportunity Bank Montenegro:

In April 2002, Opportunity Bank was granted a licence from the Central Bank of Montenegro, being the first bank in the country to have 100% foreign capital.  With its main focus to support entrepreneurship and private business developments, Opportunity Bank Montenegro offers a wide range of banking services, including loans, deposits, SWIFT international transactions, domestic payments, payment cards, e-banking. Around 220 employees service approximately 70,000 clients around all of Montenegro via a 14 branch nationwide network.


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