ECONOMY

Bank profits not as bad as feared

Profits for most major banks saw a decline in the first quarter of the year, but not to the extent that many analysts had feared. Just a day after the issuance of Alpha Bank results that beat expectations, the January-March data for another three banks released yesterday confirmed that trend. EFG Eurobank, the country’s second-largest lender, saw its profits shrink by 62.5 percent year-on-year as they dropped to 81 million euros from 215 million euros during last year’s Q1. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast net profits of 72.9 million euros on average. Operating profits (before provisions) reached 363 million euros, or 13 percent growth on a yearly basis, thanks to the growth of services and a reduction in the group’s operating expenditures. The high cost of deposits and slowdown in credit expansion have affected the net revenues of the group, in interest that declined by 3.9 percent year-on-year to reach 54 million euros in the first quarter of 2009. Cyprus-based Marfin Popular Bank (MPB), majority-owned by the Athens-based Marfin Investment Group, announced yesterday that its net profits in the January-March period came to 40 million euros, while provisions for a reduction in loans issued soared by 95 percent to reach 48.6 million euros. Deposits rose by 16 percent. The group as a whole, however, saw its assets climb to 40.7 billion euros, posting an annual rise of 29 percent. Bank of Cyprus, which is also listed on the Athens market, recorded after-tax profits of 63 million euros in Q1 this year. They fell by 46 percent from the same period in 2008 to reach 116 million euros. Pre-tax profits came to 79 million euros against 133 million euros last year, an annual drop of 41 percent. Nevertheless, the group has expanded its network considerably, as it now has 589 branches as of this year’s Q1 from 305 branches in the same quarter of 2008. (Kathimerini, Reuters)