Bank Zachodni set for €106m Polish branch expansion
BANK Zachodni WBK, the Polish bank controlled by AIB, plans to spend as much as 400m zloty (€106m) expanding its branch network to exploit Poland's booming lending market.
The bank plans to add 250 new outlets, upgrade its franchise network and increase the number of cash machines over the next four years, chief executive officer Mateusz Morawiecki told Bloomberg in an interview.
Zachodni, based in the western city of Wroclaw, currently has about 380 branches.
"We have agreed on the budgets and we plan to expand mainly in places where we are not present, such as eastern Poland," Morawiecki said.
At the same time, Zachodni, Poland's fourth-largest bank by market value, will increase employment by about a quarter, or 2,000 workers, including adding 400 in 2007, he added.
The bank aims to increase its share of Polish lending and deposits to about 10pc in 2010 from 6pc now.
Zachodni sees room to grow as almost 40pc of Poles have no bank accounts.
Poland has about 140 bank branches per 1m people, compared with around 200 in the Republic of Ireland and more than 500 in Italy.
Morawiecki, who replaced Jacek Ksen as chief executive in March, said the bank's second-quarter profit may rise more than 10pc, and expects 2007 to be "a good" year for Zachodni.
Ksen said in February that pre-tax income may rise 30pc this year.
Zachodni also wants to double its share in the home loans market to about 6pc from 3pc.
The bank, unlike some rivals such as Bank Millennium and BRE Bank, sells home loans only in Polish zloty.
"Our share in this market isn't satisfactory for us," Morawiecki said. "If the trend on the market turns more to lending in zloty, our ambition will be to increase our share within twoyears.
"If the trend remains unchanged, and Poles will be willing to risk more by borrowing in foreign currency, then it may take us three to four years."