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Bratislavská obchodná a úverná banka, Bratislava

The bank was established on 14 July 1903 by local entrepreneurs with a share capital of 400,000 Austro-Hungarian crowns (K) divided into two thousand shares at a nominal value of K 200. The first president was Gábor Pávai - Vajna with vice-presidents Gustáv Braunsteiner and Filip Wertheimer. The bank's name was Pozsonyi kereskedelmi és hitelbank, r. t., Pozsonyer Handels- und Kreditbank A.G., and as of 1919 it also used the name Bratislavská obchodná a úverná banka (all of which mean Bratislava Commercial and Credit bank, joint stock company) as well as the Hungarian and German variations. 

Its objective was to collect deposits on current accounts and, in particular, to get small depositors to make deposits in savings books, evidence for which is the fact that the bank's interest rates were set slightly higher than those of older local financial institutions. The bank used the acquired deposits to provide loans to local traders, industrialists and farmers.

In 1906 it established a close liaison with Magyar kereskedelmi, r. t., Budapest which later changed its name to Magyar bank és kereskedelmi, r. t., and finally to Angol-Magyar bank r. t., Budapest. This financial institution took over the majority of the bank's shares, leading to a change in the composition of the administrative bodies. Two years later the bank increased its share capital to K 600,000 by issuing another thousand shares at a nominal value of K 200, out of which 500 shares were taken by Magyar kereskedelmi r. t. in Budapest. In 1909, by issuing a new issue of 2000 shares at a value of K 200, the bank increased its share capital to K 1 million.

In 1910, the bank set up a sales department for agricultural products that it purchased from farms in the Záhorie region and sold in Bratislava for local consumption. The bank also exported a part of these products, mainly to Austria. In 1912 it entered the real estate business. The bank bought about 16,000 square fathoms of land in Trenčín and set up a syndicate for their subsequent sale. In the city of Bratislava, it participated in various parcelling projects and founded a construction company under the name of Bratislavská stavebná účastinná spoločnosť (Bratislava construction joint stock company) with a share capital of K 600,000. In 1915 it established Dielňa na zakvasenie kapusty (Workshop for cabbage fermenting in Stupava) with a share capital of K 100,000, which it increased to K 200,000 over the course of a year.

The bank raised its share capital in 1916 to K 1.5 million with a new issue of 2,500 shares of K 200 nominal value and in 1917 again, this time to K 2 million. At that time, it established a company for the exploitation of mineral waters Vita with a share capital of K 400,000. It also founded Účastinná spoločnosť pre dopravu, výstavbu ciest a štrkopieskové závody (Joint stock company for transport, road construction and gravel plant) with a share capital of K 500,000. The bank became one of the founders of Bratislavské parné a liečebné kúpele (Bratislava steam and healing spa company). When purchasing approximately 100,000 cubic fathoms of construction material, it increased the share capital of Bratislava construction joint-stock company from K 600,000 to K 1.5 million. The share capital of its enterprise for cabbage fermenting in Stupava was increased to K 300,000.

Bratislavská obchodná a úverná banka, Bratislava - účastina, 1918After the breakup of Austria-Hungary and establishment of the first Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, the bank strove to expand its businesses even further: it increased the share capital for Účastinná spoločnosť pre dopravu, výstavbu ciest a štrkopieskové závody from K 500,000 to K 1 million as well as the share capital of Dielňa na zakvasenie kapusty in Stupava from K 300,000 to K 500,000.

Together with Bratislavská stavebná účastinná spoločnosť it established several industrial enterprises into which it entered with its capital. Dielňa na zakvasenie kapusty in Stupava changed its name in 1919 to Gea slovenská gazdovská a poľnohospodárska priemyselná účastinná spoločnosť (Gea Slovak agricultural industrial joint stock company) and with the help of the bank it increased its share capital to 2 million Czechoslovak crowns (Kč).

In 1920, together with Slovenská banka, it also increased the share capital of Uránia cinematographic company from Kč 1 million to Kč 1.6 million and of Gea company in Stupava to Kč 4 million. Together with the city of Bratislava, it raised the capital of the Bratislava construction joint-stock company to Kč 4 million. With the help of Pražský bankový dom Bedrich Fuchs (Prague Banking House, Bedrich Fuchs), it raised its capital to Kč 5 million by issuing 15,000 shares in a new issue of Kč 200 nominal value. In addition to experts from the Angol-Magyar Bank in Budapest, experts from Pražský bankový dom Bedrich Fuchs also became members of the bank’s administrative bodies this year.

In 1921, the bank began to feel the impact of the economic crisis. Experts from Britisch-Oesterreichische Bank A. G., Wien also temporarily appeared in its administrative and supervisory bodies, replacing the experts from Angol-Magyar Bank in Budapest. This year, the Bratislava construction joint-stock company merged with the Anton Durvay construction company took place to form a new company Spojená stavebná účastinná spoločnosť (Joint Construction Company) in Bratislava. Together with two local companies and one large Prague enterprise, the bank raised the capital of the new construction company from Kč 8 million to Kč 20 million.

The bank’s fortunes turned for the worse with the crises of 1923 and of the 1930s, and as a result of losses, negative balance and bankruptcies of these companies, it reduced its share capital in 1932. Although net profits had never exceeded Kč 2.5 million in 20 years of operation, the balance sheet had remained positive and dividends had always been paid out from profits. In 1923, the balance turned negative for the first time. The bank’s companies fell into difficulties one after another: the shares of Gea company in Stupava were totally impaired and it suffered loss in loans amounting to Kč 1 million; the Uránia cinematographic company suffered a loss of Kč 400,000. The value of shares of Spojená stavebná účastinná spoločnosť fell from Kč 240 to Kč 50 in fair value. There was also a foreign exchange loss due to a debt to English companies in the amount of 20,000 pounds sterling, which the bank had borrowed before the First World War.

On the proposal of the bank's management, the general meeting decided to write down the reported loss as follows: Kč 975,000 from the reserve fund and Kč 4.5 million from the equity capital, a total of Kč 5,475,000. Between 1924 and 1926, further losses were incurred, which were carried over from year to year until 1930. In the years 1927 to 1930, the bank reported weak results, so in 1931, after the stabilization balance, it wrote down Kč 87,000 from the reserve fund and Kč 1.25 million from the equity capital. Nevertheless, from 1933 up until its termination of operation, the bank still had a positive balance sheet and profits were transferred to the reserve funds.

In 1935, Česká eskomptná banka a úverný ústav in Prague took over most of its shares, thereby changing the representation in the administrative and supervisory bodies. The bank became an affiliated institution. This situation remained unchanged until 1938.

On 8 March 1939, the general meeting of Bratislavská obchodná a úverná banka was held, at which the word ‘Bratislavská’ (Bratislava) in the name of the bank was changed to ‘Nemecká’ (German) and new members were elected to the administrative board. Most of its shares was taken over by Länderbank in Vienna. Other events followed rather swiftly and in 1940 Spišská banka with 9 branches throughout Spiš was forced to merge with Nemecká obchodná a úverná banka. The share capital was raised to 30 million Slovak crowns (Ks) and new articles of association were adopted. New shares worth more than Ks 26 million were issued to raise the share capital and were taken over by Dresdner Bank, while the equivalent was credited to the bank in the Slovak-German clearing account, Interimskonto. It meant that the payment went to the account of the Ministry of Finance in Bratislava which had to finance Slovak-German clearing from its own resources. No money was ever actually transferred to Slovakia. Dresdner Bank also took over the limited liability shareholdings of Česká eskomptná banka, Prague and Bankový dom Frankl a spol., Žilina.

However, the position of Nemecká obchodná a úverná banka in relation to Dresdner Bank is most significantly illustrated by the change of articles of association. A new top layer of management known as the “Geschäftsführung” or directorship was added to the bank’s bodies. This body, which was appointed by the administrative board, directly managed all affairs of the bank, took decisions on employees and was not accountable to anyone, only reporting on its activities to the administrative board. The Geschäftsführung directors were the directors of Dresdner Bank, and later of Länderbank too: Franz Gold, Heinrich Schneider, later R. Anspach and J. R. von Paic. The administrative board itself had representatives of German companies such as IG Farben, Mannesmann, Siemens, German oil joint stock company and others. The bank acquired shares in Dynamit Nobel, Apollo refinery and in Coburg Mining and Metallurgy Works. Loans could only be granted with the approval of Dresdner Bank in Berlin. One such loan served for advance payments of wages of Slovak workers in Germany. The most important enterprises owned by the bank were Lihag company and brewery in Poprad. In the Spiš region, the bank exercised its influence among Carpathian Germans through branches of the former Spišská banka in Kežmarok. During the war, the bank had 216 employees.

In this way it established a network of branches and tried to intervene in the economic life of the Slovak State in favour of German capital. The bank did so successfully until the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, when it went into liquidation as enemy property. In May 1945 the Trophy Committee of the Red Army’s Second Ukrainian Front in the territory of Slovakia set up a list of so-called trophy banks which it considered for spoil of war. The list included Nemecká (Bratislavská) obchodná a úverná banka together with Union banka, Bratislavská prvá sporivá banka and the Signum cooperative in Bratislava which were declared the Red Army’s spoil of war. When the front approached Bratislava, the bank transported its administrative documents to Malacky and Austria. The documents in Malacky were destroyed, while a part of those in Austria were returned to Slovakia.

At the end of the war, Nemecká obchodná a úverná banka thus became a trophy bank of the Red Army, which confiscated liquid funds in the amount of Ks 238 million, deposits worth Ks 168 million and the content of safe-deposit boxes of unknown value. After long government negotiations, the bank was finally withdrawn from the list of trophy banks. An interim administration for the bank was established in May 1945. It had to leave the main building on 9 Hviezdoslavovo Square and settled in a building at Laurinská Street. On 13 May 1945 it returned to its original name, Bratislavská, and gradually replaced the bank officers of German and Hungarian nationality (only 26 of whom had not fled). The Executive Authority for Finance placed the financial institution in a special regime for payment of debts: no new transactions were executed, only the original assets of approximately Kč 700 million were managed. Decree No 108 of the President of the Republic of 25 May 1945 applied to it and as property of German legal entities, it was subject to confiscation.

Through its Decree of 12 June 1945, the Slovak National Council’s Executive Authority for Finance established a temporary administration and appointed František Hloušek, Vincent Koráň and Alexander Marko as administrators. On 7 June 1946, the bank came under the management of the national administration and by Notice No 11602/46 – VI/18 of the Executive Authority for Finance of 12 July 1946, it entered into liquidation. In line with a decree of the Ministry of Finance, Bratislavská obchodná a úverná banka was deleted from the Companies Register and merged with Slovenská všeobecná úverná banka in Bratislava. All its branches were also deleted from the Companies Register with effect from 1 January 1949.

Its administrative documents were found scattered in commercial premises at former Wolkerova (today Biela) Street in Bratislava. Inspection found that most of the documentation was sent to scrap dealers in 1951 - 1952 without any list of documents or disposal protocol being made. In 1958, the surviving documents were deposited in the corporate archives of Štátna banka československá, Regional Institute for Slovakia in Bratislava, at Marianka. Documents were deposited in a former monastery. In 1975 - 1977, the archive records were moved to a new utility building of the archives at 27 Krajná Street in Bratislava and later, in 2003, they were transferred to the Archives of Národná banka Slovenska at 8 Cukrová Street in Bratislava. The documents of this fonds are mostly written in German and only a small part is written in Slovak.

Part of the archive fonds was first processed in 1962. In 2015, the inventory was revised by the Archives of Národná banka Slovenska. The administrative board minutes from 1941, balance sheets, annual reports, and final accounts, as well as documents from the credit and foreign exchange department provide a significant source of knowledge about Slovak-German economic relations during the 1939 - 1945 period.

Last updated: Monday, September 16, 2019