NBG 2006 net profit soars

National Bank (NBG), Greece’s largest lender, said yesterday full-year 2006 group net profit rose 36 percent, broadly in line with market expectations, on strong growth in retail credit. National said 2006 net earnings grew to -990 million versus an average forecast of -1 billion in a recent Reuters poll of analysts. Greek banks have been riding a wave of strong credit expansion at home as households take advantage of low real interest rates to buy property and consumer goods. Activities abroad are also contributing to rising share-to-net earnings. NBG, the first Greek bank to venture into Turkey last year with the acquisition of Finansbank, said net interest income grew 19 percent to -1.892 billion. Net interest margin rose to 3.76 percent at the end of the fourth quarter versus 3.16 percent in 2005. «Finansbank’s results were particularly encouraging. Its profitability… confirmed our expectations, exceeding -156 million,» said Chief Executive Takis Arapoglou in a statement. The group, also present in Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and Albania, said its overall loan portfolio expanded by 20 percent to -37 billion, without counting Finansbank. Mortgages remained a main growth driver, growing 22 percent year-on-year to -14.4 billion. Consumer loans expanded 21 percent to -5.8 billion. (Reuters)