ECONOMY

Piraeus Bank posts best ever H1 performance

Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fifth-largest lender, reported a 45 percent jump in first-half net profit yesterday, beating market forecasts thanks to growth in lucrative retail loans. Group net profit after minorities came in at 79.1 million euros ($97 million), above an average forecast of a 28 percent rise in a recent Reuters poll of analysts. The fourth Greek bank in a row to report better-than-expected first-half earnings after Alpha Bank, National Bank and Eurobank, Piraeus said the results represented its best ever first-half performance. The bank, which reported financial results under Greek accounting standards, said earnings were boosted by higher net interest and commission income, where growth outpaced the rise in operating costs. Home and consumer loans grew 21.6 percent year-on-year in the first half, making up 28.3 percent of its total loan portfolio. Expanding credit brought an 18.9 percent rise in net interest income to 217.4 million euros. Net interest margin improved to 3.07 from 2.69 percent in the same period last year. Strong lending growth showed loans now make up 72.7 percent of the group’s assets versus 62.8 percent in the first half a year earlier. Its bond portfolio shrank to make up 9.6 percent of total assets from 19.4 percent. Non-performing loans made up 3.85 percent of its loan portfolio. The bank said commission income rose 31.5 percent in the first six months to 66.4 million euros, while trading gains – mostly from its closed-end fund Hellenic Investments – were up 19.5 percent to 33.4 million. Operating costs rose 10.3 percent, mainly due to the expansion of the bank’s network, as 26 new branches were added to make a total of 277, with about 15 more programmed for the second half. The bank said its return on equity (ROE) improved to 15.9 percent from 14 last year. (Reuters)