Vladimir Romanov’s Ukio Bankas opens after 4-year delay

Ukio Bankas has opened its doors
Ukio Bankas has opened its doors
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Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov’s bank has finally opened a branch in Edinburgh, as the controversial businessman today suggested he might reconsider his decision to sell the club.

The Castle Street branch of Ukio Bankas has opened to the public more than four years later than first planned.

Today, the Lithuanian businessman was reported as saying he might reconsider his decision to sell the club if changes were made to Scottish football, adding: “It may well be that I won’t leave Hearts after all.”

His comments came as the club said the majority of their first-team players had been paid January wages.

Ukio Bankas first announced its plans to open an Edinburgh branch in 2006 and has been a tenant of 10 Castle Street since 2007, but was unable to open because of difficulties obtaining a banking licence.

That now appears to have been resolved as the bank has quietly opened its first branch outside Lithuania without any promotional activity or announcements.

One source at the company told the Evening News: “It is a soft opening at the minute, just using our existing contacts in the Edinburgh city area to bring clients in. We are not planning any major publicity just now. We are just testing the opportunities and talking to the market.”

The company is not directly linked to the Hearts owner’s Ukio Bankas Investment Group (UBIG), but Mr Romanov is the largest shareholder in both.

The new Edinburgh branch is said to be offering a “broad spectrum” of facilities, including both traditional retail banking and corporate banking.

Doubts had been raised about whether the company would ever open Edinburgh.

The News revealed last week that UBIG is selling a large chunk of the former RBS headquarters in St Andrew Square that it bought for £20 million.

The opening also appears to have surprised council and business leaders.

Graham Birse, director of policy and communications at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is certainly low-key. We look forward to engaging with the bank in terms of what potential there might be in eastern Europe for Scottish businesses.”

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “We welcome new foreign investment to the city.”