National profit after taxes, minorities up 69 pct in 2003; costs kept steady

National Bank of Greece, the country’s largest, saw its net profit, after taxes and minorities, rise 69 percent, to 360.3 million euros, in 2003. Net pretax profit rose 49.8 percent to 521 million euros from 349.8 million in 2002, the bank’s governor, Theodoros Karatzas, announced yesterday. The bank announced a dividend of 0.65 euros per share, compared to 0.41 euros in 2002. A crucial factor in the increased profitability was keeping spending on personnel wages at 2002 levels and holding other expenses to a 2.7 percent rise, that is, below average inflation. Profits of National Bank branches and subsidiaries abroad increased 19 percent, despite the drop in the dollar’s exchange rate. (A great part of National’s network abroad is based in the United States.) Net commissions increased 16.3 percent. The largest increase was in investment banking (46 percent), followed by mutual fund management (33.6 percent) and retail banking (22.6 percent). The bank’s interest margin was 2.67 percent, a five-year high.