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CEE Is 'Turbo-Charged Western Europe': Strategist

Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011 | 4:08 AM ET

Worries about Western Europe have spilled into countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the region's fate is tightly linked to that of its main exporting market, Wike Groenenberg, head of Central and Eastern Europe and Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEEMEA) strategy at Citi, told CNBC on Wednesday.

Poland
Bruno Morandi | Robert Harding World Imagery | Getty Images
Poland

Mortgages and loans in Swiss franc - popular in the recent years because of lower interest rates in Switzerland - have become a massive burden, especially for Poland and Hungary, where they make up around 15 percent of gross domestic product, Groenenberg explained.

"We see Central Europe as a turbo-charged Western Europe," she added. "That's of course because of the very close trade and financial links."

Currencies in Central and Eastern Europe, especially in Hungary and Poland, depreciated in early August as the Swiss franc soared to record highs against the euro and the dollar , with investors concerned about consumer loans and the health of the banking sector, according to Groenenberg.

Hungary may be more attractive than more developed Western European countries, as during its International Monetary Fund program - which ended a year ago - it maintained a stricter financial discipline, but Swiss franc loans "will stay with Hungary for at least another 10 years," she said.

Poland, the only country in the European Union not to go through a recession during the financial crisis, recorded economic growth of 4.3 percent in the second quarter.

"Economic growth is solid in Poland – yet it has been a currency that has sold off a lot in the past few weeks. I think the reason is that there is a lot of foreign exposure in that region," Groenenberg said.

In other emerging markets, Turkey is "very interesting" as the currency has "underperformed massively" and Egypt, although it may be a good investment for the short-term, will have to go through a devaluation next year when it has elections, she added.

Contact Europe: Economy

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