Erste Bank eyes 2011 state aid repayment

Erste Bank, one of Austria’s leading financial institutes, has said it planned to pay back the state aid it has received over the past two years in the coming months.The Vienna-based bank, which is active in the whole Central and Eastern which (CEE) region, announced today (Fri) it intended to return the 1.2 billion Euros that the Republic of Austria transferred since the outbreak of the economic crisis within this year.Erste Bank also said it had no plans to leave Ukraine despite the negative performance of its affiliated company in the country.The financial institute explained that extra expenses caused by the new Austrian bank tax would range around 100 million Euros this year.The federal government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) agreed last year to ask Austria’s leading banks for an annual contribution of half a billion Euros as of 2011.SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann and the party’s Finance State Secretary Andreas Schieder vehemently defended the decision to set up the levy against protests by some bank bosses and critical coverage by some newspapers such as the Kurier in which Raiffeisenzentralbank (RZB) holds a majority stake.Erste Bank said today that it expected to achieve a “robust” performance this year. Asked for the situation in crisis-stricken countries in CEE, the bank said: “The worst lies behind us.”The bank had total assets of 205.9 billion Euros last year, up by 2.1 per cent compared to 2009. It has nearly 50,300 employees.