FCIB Prague: Eastern Europe Growing, But Let the Seller Beware...

Off the strength of continued growth as a hub for service centers and more generalized outsourcing, nations in eastern Europe, Soviet Bloc countries until the late 1980s, are emerging as slightly bigger players in the business and credit world. However, the corporate information emanating from there often is not entirely trustworthy, said panelists at FCIB's Annual International Credit & Risk Management Summit in Prague.

FCIB panelist Elisabeth Sutter-Becska, of Raiffeisen Bank International in Austria, noted that problems with performing loans levels in Ukraine and Russia are increasing again after a few years of improvement. Fellow FCIB panelist Fabrice Morel, of Berne Union, noted there was a major spike in 2008 as well, one that showed the long-term stability of credit insurance companies in Europe in some ways, but that the four following years marked a time when issues had been mitigated in significant fashion.

The potential for another spike stems from the quality of information on the businesses in several eastern European nations. Kateryna Barabash, managing director and owner of IBcontacts, a Ukraine-based firm dealing in credit, legal and news services, said the information can be hard to analyze...if a credit manager can even get it at all.

You have to realize there is a lot of information that is incorrect or out of date,” Barabash said, adding that a high level of nepotism plays into what is released by companies. “You have to verify this information with a buyer and your partner...don't rely just on existing database information.” Beyond that, she noted that perhaps the even bigger problem is getting data like financials since estimates of the rate of refusal for such requests tracks between “60% and 70%.”

In short, her sentiment was, if the company is not being transparent, they are very likely hiding something important in the grand scheme of creditworthiness.

-Brian Shappell, CBA, CICP, NACM staff writer

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