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VIENNA, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Unicredit SpA's Bank Austria, emerging Europe's biggest lender, reported sharply higher nine-month net profit thanks to a slight increase in its customer business, cost discipline and lower provisions.
The bank, whose central and eastern European (CEE) operations have helped it weather Europe's financial crisis without having to seek state aid, said loan writedowns in Austria and central Europe fell 13.4 percent to 887 million euros.
Net profit surged to 1.1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) from just 3 million in the first nine months of 2011, a figure that was depressed by large impairment charges including writedowns on Greek government bonds.
Bank Austria said on Wednesday it would maintain its leading position in the CEE region through investments in the strategic markets of the Czech Republic, Turkey and Russia.
"The local funding capabilities of many CEE subsidiaries have improved through strong growth in deposits, which exceeded growth in loans," said Gianni Franco, Bank Austria's deputy chief executive and head of the CEE division.
"Despite recently blurring economic indications for the CEE region, we stick to our strategy of focused investments in selected growth markets," Franco said. ($1 = 0.7867 euros) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters and David Holmes)