National Bank, Greece’s largest, posted impressive first quarter results, exceeding market expectations by far, with the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) having little effect on the result. Specifically, group profit after tax and minorities jumped 58.4 percent to 146.9 million euros from 92.8 million in the first quarter of 2004. Core profit did even better, rising 74.7 percent, to 203.4 million euros. Earnings per share amounted to 46 cents, from 29 the previous year. Provisions for pensions and severance payments amounted to 225 million euros. If we deduct tax adjustments, the impact of IFRS on equity capital stands at 181 million euros. National has a current market value of 9.27 billion. «The Q1 group results continue the exceptional performance of the NBG group achieved in 2004, reflecting the success of our strategy to broaden our income sources, maximize operating efficiency and deliver superior returns, as set out in the group’s 2005-2007 business plan published earlier this year,» Chairman and CEO Takis Arapoglou said in a statement. «Guided by these three principal objectives, the NBG group boosted growth in its core business, while at the same time reining in operating expenses across all its major spending categories,» he added. The cost-over-income ratio, also known as the efficiency index, dropped to 55 percent, from 64.7 percent and return on equity climbed to 24.5 percent from 16.8 percent a year ago. Core income increased 16.2 percent to 528.3 million euros, while operating costs rose 4 percent. «Both the stronger core income and enhanced profitability of the first quarter are in line with the targets set by the 2005-2007 business plan for annual earnings growth. Moreover, first quarter (return on equity) is in line with the levels set by the business plan for the end of the 3-year period,» National Bank said. Net group interest income grew 17.4 percent year-on-year to reach 397.9 million euros. The net interest also increased to a record-high 3.43 percent, from 3.05 percent in Q1 2004, as higher yielding loans represent «a steadily larger share of the whole,» the bank said. Total group lending amounted to 28.2 billion euros at the end of the first quarter, a gain of 18 percent from last year. Mortgages grew 23 percent to 9.7 billion euros, while outstanding consumer loans grew 44 percent and credit card balances grew 19 percent, to 1.5 billion euros. The total number of non-performing loans stood at 1 percent of total loans at the end of the first quarter. «It is (worth noting) that, despite stiffer competition, the number of applications for credit cards grew by 25 percent over the previous quarter,» the bank noted. National’s capital base was further strengthened, despite the introduction of IFRS. «The group’s Tier I capital adequacy ratio, following IFRS adjustments, is estimated to stand at 8 percent, (1 percent) higher over management’s minimum acceptable level as set out in the business plan. The total capital adequacy ratio (Tier I and Tier II) stood at 14.2 percent,» the bank said.