ECONOMY

Signs of slower growth at National Bank

The National Bank of Greece (NBG) appears to be showing signs of slowing growth as net interest income in the first nine months of the year grew at a lower rate than in the half-year period. The slowdown, together with smaller gains from trading and commission revenues, took consolidated pretax profits down by 7.6 percent to 194.3 billion drachmas in the nine-month period. NBG’s results, released yesterday, could set the tone for the future, said Evricos Sarsentis, banking analyst at Telesis Securities. We will be seeing slower growth in interest income, he predicted. The bank said that net interest income had risen by 36.7 percent, down from 41.3 percent in the first half. One of the reasons for the decline was the strong results posted by the bank last year which made comparison with this year’s figures seem weak in turn. NBG did not have such a strong result in the first half of 2000. The second half, in contrast, was strong which makes comparison with the same period this year very difficult, Sarsentis pointed out. The bank’s net interest margin in the nine-month period improved to 2.28 percent from 1.76 percent while on the group level, the rate rose to 2.52 percent from 2 percent. NBG said the increased organic profits were the result of its expansion into retail banking, especially lending activity. This strategy aims at spreading risks, increasing liquidity and constantly upgrading the quality of our portfolio. At the same time, it ensures a satisfactory performance, the bank said in a statement. The tactic helped boost loans in the nine-month period by 16.7 percent to 5,941 billion drachmas for the parent bank and by 14.3 percent to 7,037 billion drachmas for the group. Consumer credit soared by 44 percent and mortgage loans rose by 71 percent. Strong growth was also reported in deposits, repos and assets under management which came up to 14,458 billion drachmas. The parent bank reported a 1.6-percent increase in nine-month profits to 184.2 billion drachmas and a 3.2-percent jump in revenues to 409.6 billion drachmas. Commission income fell by 6.1 percent. NBG last week announced plans to merge with Alpha Bank to create the largest financial services group in the country. Index compiler Morgan Stanley Capital International yesterday announced both banks’ inclusion in its Pan Euro and euro indices, which are smaller versions of its MSCI Europe and EMU indices. The Pan Euro and euro indices are expected to serve as the benchmarks for derivatives contracts and exchange traded funds. Relative value is measured by the price/earnings ratio (P/E), while momentum is measured on the basis of profits, the share price and its rate of increase.