January 22, 2015 / 3:16 PM / 3 years ago

CORRECTED-SocGen banks on German growth, but uninterested in retail

(Corrects paragraph eight to make clear Deutsche Bank is discussing internally the possibility of splitting off its retail arm - adds dropped words.)

By Matthias Blamont

FRANKFURT, Jan 22 (Reuters) - French bank Societe Generale aims to double its growth in Germany to win more market share in Europe’s biggest economy, but said on Thursday it had no interest in a retail network.

With public and private balance sheets less burdened in Germany than elsewhere in the euro zone, deputy chief executive Severin Cabannes said the bank aimed to capitalise on the country’s solid financial position.

“We think we can double the growth rate of our businesses there from what we’ve seen in the last three years,” Cabannes told journalists in Frankfurt.

France’s second-biggest bank is targeting growth in Germany of 5-10 percent in the coming years after having booked net banking income of slightly more than one billion euros ($1.15 billion) last year in Germany.

Societe Generale employs about 3,100 people in Germany with businesses ranging from consumer credit to car leasing, insurance and asset management as well as corporate banking.

“We have strong positions in each of our businesses and so we have decided to devote more resources to Germany in terms of capital and liquidity,” he added.

Although the bank was not in principle opposed to acquisitions in Germany, he said that the priority was on growing its businesses there organically.

However, he ruled out entering Germany’s highly competitive consumer banking market. Deutsche Bank is discussing internally the possibility of splitting off its retail arm and bringing in a foreign partner for it, a source told Reuters earlier this month.

Asked about a possible interest in Deutsche Bank’s Postbank if it were put up for sale, Cabannes answered: “We don’t have a brick and mortar presence (in Germany) and clearly we do not want to go in that direction.”

Societe Generale is not alone in its ambitions to tap into Germany’s growth with bigger French rival BNP Paribas also eager to build up its presence in the country.

The French duo are lured in particular by the prospect of offering an array financial services to Germany’s mid-sized Mittelstand companies that are the backbone of the country’s exporting success.

Currently, few banks other than Deutsche Bank can offer such companies a broad array of services ranging from private debt placements to raising capital abroad, leaving an opportunity for banks like Societe Generale and BNP Paribas.

Boosted by a weak euro and low oil prices, Germany’s export-driven economy offers better also prospects than their domestic market in France with economists expecting growth of 1.4 percent this year compared with only 0.8 percent in France, according to a Reuters poll this month.

$1 = 0.8720 euros Reporting by Matthias Blamont; writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Andrew Callus and Elaine Hardcastle

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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