* Targets 4.2 bln eur in 2019 vs 3.5 bln in 2015
* C. Agricole aims at 900 mln eur in cost savings
* C. Agricole targets synergies, asset-light operations (Adds analyst comment, share price reaction)
By Maya Nikolaeva and Julien Ponthus
PARIS, March 9 (Reuters) - Credit Agricole plans to increase net income by around 20 percent within three years, largely through cost cutting, as it seeks to keep investors on board during a complex restructuring.
The French bank said on Wednesday that it will reduce costs and increase cross-selling in its retail, asset management and insurance businesses, as it returns to its roots in France and Italy after losing billions in international forays.
Philippe Brassac, who was appointed chief executive of Credit Agricole’s listed bank in May, announced a major structural overhaul this year aimed at overcoming internal divisions and reassuring investors of its capital strength.
Credit Agricole said that a backdrop of very low interest rates and tougher rules on risk-taking meant most of the income gains, including a target of 4.2 billion euros in net profit by 2019, will come from cost savings rather than revenue growth.
It declined to comment on any cuts in staff numbers.
“We want regular revenues instead of maximising them every time,” Brassac told investors in London.
Credit Agricole’s results and forecasts drove a 2 percent share price rise by 0847 GMT, with the French lender outpacing a 0.8 percent gain on the European banks index.
“Targets overall are in line with the new operating and regulatory environment,” said Gildas Surry, a senior analyst and partner at Axiom Alternative Investments.
The bank did not rule out acquisitions by its asset manager, Amundi, but said it may further streamline its presence in non-core countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Ukraine, if there were opportunities.
Credit Agricole is aiming for 900 million euros ($988 million) in annual cost savings by 2019 by simplifying its corporate structure, which has numerous legal entities, and reducing IT costs.
However, its cost base will still increase by 200 million euros over 2015 to 10.9 billion euros in 2019.
Credit Agricole said it aimed to grow revenue by 2.5 percent by 2019, driven by insurance and asset management, and plans to reduce capital-intensive corporate and investment banking.
This is expected to offset Credit Agricole’s loss of French retail banking revenue, following the sale of its stake in regional banks, and deliver a return on tangible equity above the 2015 level of 10 percent by 2019. ($1 = 0.9109 euros) (Editing by James Regan and Alexander Smith)