Piraeus Q1 net up

Piraeus Bank reported a 33 percent rise in its first-quarter net profits yesterday, in line with market expectations and boosted by one-off capital gains and strong loan growth. The country’s fourth-largest lender said net group earnings rose to -248.2 million. Analysts in a recent Reuters poll had, on average, forecast a profit of -248.8 million. «Core profit before tax grew by 48 percent,» the group’s chief executive, Michalis Sallas, said in a statement. «The performance in terms of operations and profits is in line with the growth rates provided by the group’s 2007-10 business plan.» In March, Piraeus sold its 8.07 percent stake in Cyprus’s largest lender, Bank of Cyprus (BoC), after its takeover proposal was rejected. The net gain from the sale was -153 million. Excluding the net gain resulting from the unwinding of a cross shareholding with ING last year and from the sale of the BoC stake this year, net profit grew 48 percent to -94.9 million from -64.3 million in the first quarter of 2006, the bank said. Piraeus said its loan portfolio grew 34 percent to -22.8 billion. Mortgage lending rose by 29 percent to -4.74 billion with consumer credit up 28 percent at -3.1 billion. Net interest income grew 28 percent to -193 million, in line with the average market forecast. Net interest margin was reported at 3.0 percent. Shares in Piraeus, which has operations in Romania, Bulgaria, Egypt, the USA and Albania, trade at about 15.5 times estimated 2007 earnings, in line with the average multiple for its European peers, according to Reuters Estimates. (Reuters)