ECONOMY

Piraeus Bank posts robust profit growth

Piraeus Bank’s nine-month net profit rose by 49 percent, Greece’s fifth-largest lender reported yesterday, as it gained market share in retail lending while containing costs. Net profit during the period increased to 136.2 million euros on strong consumer and home loan growth. «Performance is related mainly to the acceleration of retail banking activities, in line with the group’s strategy for further expansion into households and small and medium-sized enterprises’ business segments,» Chief Executive Michael Sallas said in a statement. Reflecting its push into retail lending and mortgages, the bank’s net interest income grew 23 percent to 397.2 million euros, with its net interest margin reported at 3.31 percent. Overall, Greek households owed a total of 37.8 billion euros in mortgages based on August central bank data, which showed that lending in this area expanded at a 25.1 percent annual pace. «Strong earnings growth is the result of expanded lending in mortgages and consumer credit, coupled with operating cost containment,» said analyst Antonis Kouleimanis at Egnatia Finance. Piraeus Bank said overall lending grew 29 percent in the nine-month period. Home loans expanded at a 57 percent annual rate, above an estimated 31 percent market average, meaning the bank boosted its market share to 8.4 from 7.6 percent last year. It said consumer loans grew 40 percent to 2.08 billion euros. Non-performing loans (NPLs) made up 3.8 percent of total loans, down from 4.25 percent a year earlier. The cost-to-income ratio improved to 56.8 from 60.5 percent. After tax return-on-equity (ROE) rose to 19.5 from 14.9 percent last year. The capital adequacy remained high with its Tier 1 ratio estimated at 8.9 percent. (Reuters)