Best emerging market banks

Alfa-Bank is arguably the slickest bank in Russia. Although a fraction of the size of Sberbank, Alfa-Bank is Russia's biggest privately owned bank and was one of the few big banks that did not cut down its operations after the August 1998 crisis. It is planning to tap the international capital markets this year to raise about $200 million to help finance expansion. There are plans to open 22 branches in more than 10 previously Soviet regions in 2000. Having survived the financial collapse in 1998, it is now buying branches from financially strapped rivals; it has also acquired controlling interest in the Tyumen Oil Company. Among the prosperous Russian banks, Alfa's business prospects look the best. Its assets last year soared by 149%, to 40.7 billion rubles ($1.4 billion). Adjusted for the amount of forex-denominated assets (87.3% of the total) and the ruble's 23.5% devaluation in 1999, its assets grew by 97.8%.