Erste Group

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Erste Group Bank AG
Traded as WBAGEBS
Industry Financial services
Founded 2008 (1819 as the first Austrian savings banks)
Headquarters Vienna, Austria
Area served
Central and Eastern Europe
Key people
Andreas Treichl (CEO)
Products Retail and commercial banking, investment and private banking, asset management
€3,090.7 million (2014)
Total assets €196,287 billion (end 2014)
Total equity €9.838 billion (end 2014)
Number of employees
46,067 (end 2014)

Erste Group Bank AG (Erste Group) is one of the largest financial services providers in Central and Eastern Europe serving 15.8 million clients in 2,500 branches in 7 countries [2]


Erste Group was founded in 1819 as Erste österreichische Spar-Casse in Leopoldstadt, a suburb of Vienna. After the demise of Communism, the company started a strong expansion into Central and Eastern Europe and by 2008 it had acquired 10 banks. In 1997, it went public and today the company is listed on the exchanges of Vienna, Prague and Bucharest and included in the indices CEETX, ATX and PX.

On the 9th of August 2008, the former Erste Bank der österreichischen Sparkassen AG was split up into the newly founded holding company Erste Group and the subsidiary Erste Bank Oesterreich; the foreign subsidiaries were taken over by the new holding company. Erste Group now includes all companies of the Group.

In a ranking by Forbes Magazine of the world's largest stock corporations in 2013, Erste Group Bank came in 672nd place and was third among Austrian companies.[3]

1819: Foundation of Austria’s first savings bank[edit]

During the years of economic crisis in the wake of the Napoleonic War, Francis I, Emperor of Austria proposed the creation of a savings bank based on the German and English model. Johann Baptist Weber, a pastor in Leopoldstadt, pursued this idea. In 1819, he founded the “Verein der Ersten österreichischen Spar-Casse” (Association of Austrian first savings banks) and on 4 October 1819 “Die Erste oesterreichische Spar-Casse” (the first Austrian savings bank) opened its doors for business.[4] The bank shortly called "Erste österreichische", soon expanded throughout the realm.

1938: During World War II[edit]

After the Anschluss, the word Austria was removed from the bank name. The management therefore chose to remove the word from the market, calling the bank simply the "Spar-Casse", but to retain it in official documents.

1945: New development opportunities[edit]

After World War II, the reconstruction of the country brought new opportunities to the Erste österreichische, with the expansion of the private payment system, state-sponsored savings schemes, investment financing, exports support or credit to private institutions. The development of financial institutions able to solve problems for all customer categories progressed rapidly.

By the end of the 70s, structural changes in the banking sector like the lifting of restriction on affiliate founding, the Banking act or the termination of the inter-banking agreement on lending rates led to the emergence of a new situation, sparking a race between banks to attract competitors' customers.

Transfer to a joint-stock company[edit]

In 1993, the business operations of “DIE ERSTE oesterreichische Spar-Casse” were transferred to a public limited company pursuant to the 1986 Banking Act Amendment. In this procedure, all its banking operations were transferred to “DIE ERSTE österreichische Spar-Casse-Bank AG”, a newly founded subsidiary, which became the operational bank. The holding company changed its name to “DIE ERSTE österreichische Spar-Casse Anteilsverwaltungssparkasse (AVS)”.[5] In 2003, ERSTE Foundation evolved out of AVS being the main shareholder of Erste Group until today and fulfilling a philanthropic mission.

Merger with GiroCredit[edit]

As of 27 June 1997, Die Erste was merged with GiroCredit through the absorption of GiroCredit into Die Erste. Die Erste and AVS bought 51,1% of the stock from Anteilsverwaltungssparkasse Zentralsparkasse, which were added to the 26% stake already controlled. Through universal succession, Die Erste was subrogated into all the rights and obligations of GiroCredit. The merger was approved by the general shareholders’ meetings of Die Erste and GiroCredit on 21 Aug 1997 and became legally effective upon registration in the Company Register on 4 October 1997. At the same time, “DIE ERSTE österreichische Spar-Casse – Bank AG” was renamed “Erste Bank der Oesterreichischen Sparkassen AG”.

Expanding into Central and Eastern Europe since 1997[edit]

After restructuring and going public, Erste Bank – at the time the uniform organization – embarked on its expansion strategy into Central and Eastern Europe. The first takeover was the Hungarian Mezőbank in 1997. After carrying out another capital increase, the expansion continued. In 2000, majority stakes were acquired in the Czech Česká spořitelna and in the Slovak Slovenská sporiteľňa.

Also in 2000, three small Croatian banks were merged to create Erste & Steiermärkische Bank d.d., following their takeovers as of 1997 by Erste Bank and the Steiermärkische Bank und Sparkassen AG.

In 2003, Riječka banka was merged with Erste & Steiermärkische Bank. The stake owned by Erste in these subsidiaries has been 55.1% ever since.

The acquisition of 61.88% in Banca Comercială Română S.A. (BCR), the largest Romanian bank with 2.8 ,illion customers and 12,000 employees, for EUR 3.751 billion in 2005 was the largest foreign direct investment ever by an Austrian enterprises. The number of the employees at the end of 2008 was 9,985.

In July 2005, Erste Bank signed the purchase agreement for the acquisition of 83.28% of the shares in Novosadska banka a.d., Novi Sad, from the Republic of Serbia. With the acquisition of the bank, Erste Bank entered the Serbian market which promises enormous growth potential.[6]

In 2007, Erste acquired 100% of Bank Prestige in Ukraine, its first business venture in the country. In April 2013, Erste Group sold its Ukrainian subsidiary for around EUR 63 million to the owners of the Ukrainian Fidobank. The sale was in line with Erste Group's strategy to focus on the retail business in the eastern part of the European Union. Ukraine been growing more and more distant from the EU politically in the last few years, and therefore, no longer fit into the strategy of the banking group.[7]

In 2008, the foreign business of Erste Bank was transferred to the newly founded Erste Group.

Bank acquisitions in Central and Eastern Europe since 1997[8]
Year Bank Country Share
(in EUR mn)
1997 Mezőbank Hungary 100.00% n. a. operates the fifth largest subsidiary network in Hungary; in 1998 it was renamed Erste Bank Hungary, 2003 consolidated with Postabank
2000 Česká spořitelna Czech Republic 99% 530 largest private bank in Czech Republic; 2000: 52.07 % acquired
2000 Slovenská sporiteľňa Slovakia 100.00 % 425 2000: acquisition of 67.2%; 2005: call option exercised for additional 19.99%, afterwards, acquisition of 100%
Bjelovarska banka
Trgovačka banka
Čakovečka banka
Riječka banka
Croatia 69.3% n. a. Merged Erste & Steiermärkischen Bank d.d., third largest bank in Croatia
2005 Novosadska banka Serbia 80.5% n. a.
2005 Banca Comercială Română Romania 93.6% 3,751 largest bank in Romania
2007 Bank Prestige Ukraine 0% 79.4 Sold to Fidobank in April 2013

[9] [10]

Subsidiaries in Central and Eastern Europe[edit]

The holding company Erste Group Bank AG operates local banks in seven countries in Central and Eastern Europe:

Effects of the financial crisis[edit]

In October 2011 it said it expected a full year loss of up to EUR 1.1 billion, after making writedowns and provisions of EUR 1.6 billion. This would be its first loss since at least 1988. It said the writedowns were due to government intervention in Hungary, where it is forced to take losses on Swiss franc mortgages, and a slower than expected recovery in Romania. It will also delay a plan to repay some of the state aid received in 2009.[11] In August 2013, Erste Group Bank AG was the first Austrian bank to fully repay the participation capital of EUR 1.76 billion issued in 2009 which consited of EUR 1.22 billion from the Republic of Austria and EUR 540 million from private investors.[12] From 2009 to 2012, the Republic of Austria received annual dividend payments from Erste Group of EUR 98 million and private investors of EUR 43 million. Including the pro rata dividend for 2013 which paid in June 2014 after the corresponding resolution is passed by the annual shareholders' meeting, the Republic of Austria received EUR 448 million and private investors EUR 198 million in dividends.[13]

Initial public offering, capital increases, acquisitions[edit]

The initial public offering was carried out in Vienna in 1997 by the - at time uniform - organization Erste Bank, which also carried out further capital increases until 2006 and one stock split. Some of these transactions were the largest of their kind ever on the financial market in Vienna. The capital raised was used to financed acquisitions. On 18 July 2013, Erste Group successfully completed a capital increase of EUR 660.6 million. The Erste Group share is listed on the exchanges of Vienna, Prague and Bucharest.


Effective 31 December 2015, the shareholders were:[14]

  • 19.3% ERSTE Stiftung direct & indirect
  • 9.9% Criteria Caixa Corp, S.A.
  • 6.0% Retail Investors
  • 4.1% Uniqa Versicherungsverein
  • 4.9% Harbor Int. Fund
  • 0.9% Employees
  • 50.9% Institutional Investors
  • 4.0% BlackRock Inc.

Erste Group organisation[edit]

Business organisation[edit]

As of 9 August 2008, the newly founded holding company “Erste Group Bank AG” was separated from the Austrian business of “Erste Bank der oesterreichischen Sparkassen AG”.[15] The result was a clear separation of tasks between “Erste Group Bank AG”, which acts as a holding company, and its subsidiaries in each of the countries that concentrate fully on local customer business. The new company structure became necessary due to the expansion of Erste Bank-Group within Central and Eastern Europe.[16]

The holding company, named “Erste Group Bank AG” concentrates on the strategic steering function and provides the infrastructure for the local customer business in the individual markets. In addition, it is responsible for the operation of the business areas Global Markets and Group Corporate and Investment Banking.


  1. ^ "Annual Report 2014" (PDF). Erste Group Bank. Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  2. ^ name="AR2010">"Annual Report 2014" (PDF). Erste Group Bank. Retrieved 2015-07-16. 
  3. ^ "Elf Firmen unter den weltweit größten". (in German). 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2013-04-18. Österreich ist mit elf Unternehmen in der am Mittwoch veröffentlichten Rangliste des US-Magazins „Forbes“ der weltweit größten 2.000 Firmen vertreten. […] Erste Group Bank (Platz 672), […] Unter den 2.000 Firmen befinden sich ausschließlich Aktiengesellschaften, weshalb beispielsweise Red Bull nicht vorkommt. […] Zur Erstellung der Rangliste wurden folgende Kennzahlen verwendet: Umsatz, Gewinn, Vermögenswert und Marktkapitalisierung. 
  4. ^ Thausing, Friedrich. Hundert Jahre Sparkasse. Carl Gerold's Sohn, 1919. p. 18.
  5. ^ Rapp, Christian und Rapp-Wimberger, Nadia. Arbeite, Sammle, Vermehre.. Verlag Christian Brandstätter, 2005. p. 132.
  6. ^ History Timeline
  7. ^ History Timeline
  8. ^ Geschichte der Erste Bank bzw. Erste Group (abgerufen am 01.04 2014)
  9. ^ Rapp, Christian und Rapp-Wimberger, Nadia. Arbeite, Sammle, Vermehre.. Verlag Christian Brandstätter, 2005. p. 138.
  10. ^ Rapp, Christian und Rapp-Wimberger, Nadia. Arbeite, Sammle, Vermehre.. Verlag Christian Brandstätter, 2005. p. 135.
  11. ^ Erste Slumps as Hungary, Romania Trigger $1.1 Billion Loss, retrieved 2011-10-11 
  12. ^ UPDATE 1-Erste says sold 540 mln eur capital to investors, retrieved 2011-10-11 [dead link]
  13. ^ Der Staat ist bei der Ersten draußen Der Standard, 8. August 2013
  14. ^ "Shareholder Structure" (in German). Erste Group. 2015-12-31. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  15. ^ "About Erste Bank". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  16. ^ "Strategy" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-20. 

External links[edit]