Piraeus profit rises 50 pct

Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fourth-largest lender, said yesterday full-year 2007 net profit grew 50 percent to -652.6 million ($971 million), in line with forecasts, boosted by strong retail credit expansion and one-off capital gains. Analysts in a recent Reuters poll were expecting group net earnings of -645 million on average, with estimates ranging from -625 million to -665 million. Greek banks have enjoyed a credit boom in the last three years, with households borrowing to buy property and consumer goods. Their expansion in Southeast Europe to capture growth in underbanked markets is increasingly feeding profits. Presence abroad Piraeus, also present in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Egypt, Albania, Ukraine, Cyprus and the United States, said taking into account an additional tax, incurred retroactively in January, net profit came to -622.1 million, meaning earnings per share (EPS) rose to -2.14 from -1.57 in 2006. Foreign operations contributed 16 percent or -79.7 million to group profit. «The international market turmoil found Piraeus Bank reinforced both in capital adequacy and liquidity, with its loans-to-deposits ratio improving to 127 from 130 percent a quarter earlier,» said Chairman Michalis Sallas in a statement. Piraeus said total loans grew 48 percent to -30.7 billion. Mortgages and consumer loans expanded 29 percent and 49 percent, respectively. Group net interest income rose 28 percent in 2007 to -917 million, with net interest margin maintained above 3 percent. Piraeus Bank said it would propose a total dividend per share of -0.72 for 2007, up from an adjusted 0.51 – in 2006. The bank has already paid an interim dividend of -0.36. (Reuters)