NBG confident despite tough times

National Bank (NBG), the country’s largest lender, expects to expand its domestic loan book by 11 to 13 percent this year after last year’s 19 percent expansion, its chief executive said yesterday. National’s shares rose 2.53 percent yesterday to 12.18 euros, versus a 3.04 percent rise by the Athens bourse’s general index. NBG’s lending growth will top the 10 percent target set by Greek authorities this year under a 28-billion-euro liquidity support plan to keep the economy adequately funded. Most Greek lenders are taking part in the government scheme. «In Greece, total loans are seen growing by 11 to 13 percent,» CEO Takis Arapoglou told reporters during a briefing. «Our target is above the 10 percent hurdle. We are confident that we are well positioned to deal with a difficult period.» Arapoglou said NBG, which has a presence in Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and Egypt, is aiming to increase business loans by 12 to 14 percent this year from 29 percent in 2008 and retail credit by 4 to 6 percent from 16 percent. Mortgages make up 40 percent of NBG’s loan portfolio, and retail loans 14 percent, with the remaining 46 percent being business loans. Arapoglou said foreign institutional shareholders had reduced their holding in the group to 42.4 from 53 percent, with domestic investors raising theirs to 26.3 from 16 percent. The lender said it added 2 billion euros in new loans in the last quarter of the year in Greece, 230 million euros in Southeastern Europe and 300 million euros in Turkey, where nonperforming loans increased by 60 basis points to 3.2 percent. «The improving nonperforming loan trend across the geographical regions is apparently reversing with the spike in Turkey being the most worrisome,» said Proton Research in a note. NBG will seek shareholder approval today for a 350-million-euro ($454 million) preferred share issue to boost its capital, taking part in the government’s liquidity support plan. (Kathimerini, Reuters)

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