ECONOMY

Slowdown weighs on NBG profits

National Bank (NBG), the country’s largest lender, reported yesterday an expected 5 percent drop in net profit in 2008, boosted by growth in Turkey and Southeastern Europe. National, present in 12 countries including Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, said net profit last year fell to 1.54 billion euros, from 1.62 billion euros in the previous year. Analysts were expecting the figure to come in at an average of 1.53 billion euros, according to Reuters. «Despite the rapid deterioration in this unprecedented global crisis… National’s group results for the fourth quarter and the year as a whole demonstrate the soundness of our business model,» said CEO Takis Arapoglou in a statement. Net profit from operations in Greece fell 10 percent, affected by slowing credit expansion, to 920 million euros while earnings from Southeastern Europe increased 28 percent to 202 million euros. Bottom-line figures from its Turkish subsidiary, Finansbank, advanced 15 percent to 470 million euros in a performance analysts described as being «quite good.» Shares in Greek banks have fallen 67 percent in the last six months, partly due to concerns about their exposure to deteriorating economic conditions in emerging markets. Stocks in National, which has a market capitalization of 5.2 billion euros, ended unchanged yesterday at 10.60 euros, before results were made public. The broader market also ended flat. The bank put aside 520 million euros for potential bad loans, 57 percent more than the previous year, and said the quality of its loan book remained good. Looking ahead, the lender said it will take steps to enhance its capital base, maintain liquidity levels and keep strict credit criteria in place «in the event the global situation takes a further downturn.» No forecasts for the year were given. [email protected]