The biggest bank of Italy, UniCredit announced the intention to reduce the number of its full-time staff (currently 133,740 employees) by 6,840 jobs by the end of 2008 as part of a plan to boost annual earnings by 27% following last years acquisition of German group HVB. An additional 5,000 hires will also be made, the bulk of which will come from expansion in Russia in areas such as investment banking and customer credit. UniCredit was one of the first banks to realise the potential for growth in central and eastern Europe. One of the main benefits of the HVB takeover was the acquisition of a large presence in many countries in the region. Most of the projected job cuts will come from those growing banking markets. However, UniCredit now wants to grow organically in Russia and other markets in the region as the sale prices of banks have risen dramatically. UniCredit and HVB have in present 28 million clients in 19 countries all-over the world, with more than 7,000 branches and 149,000 employees. According to the statements of the bank representatives, a recovery in demand in the banks main western European markets of Italy, Germany and Austria will help support further growth in mortgages and consumer lending. Also, the company will save approximately EUR 60 million by 2008 from the merger of its Polish units.