* To pay dividend of 3.80 crowns/shr vs forecast 3.58 crowns
* To lift payout ratio to 30 percent from 25 percent
* Q4 pretax before impairment charges 6.96 billion crowns
* Analysts had forecast 7.33 billion (Adds detail, analyst)
OSLO, Feb 5 (Reuters) - DNB, Norway’s largest bank, raised its dividend more than expected on Thursday as it continued to amass capital, and predicted loan losses would remain below normal levels this year, even as it maintained a big exposure to the oil sector.
DNB said it would lift its payout ratio to 30 percent of its profits from the previous 25 percent, as it seeks to return to a 50 percent payout by 2016 or 2017 after years of holding back earnings to meet Norway’s capital requirements, which are among the most demanding in Europe.
The lender said that while Norway’s oil industry, which generates a fifth of the country’s GDP, is suffering from the more than 50 percent fall in crude prices since June, large parts of the economy will either benefit from or avoid the energy sector’s pain.
“The depreciation of the Norwegian krone will give a long-awaited boost to large parts of the Norwegian manufacturing industry and to the travel industry,” Chief Executive Rune Bjerke said in a statement.
“Record-low interest rates and continued strong purchasing power mean that Norwegians can afford to save more without reducing the current high level of demand for goods and services.”
DNB said its volume-weighted spreads will be stable in 2015, lending volumes would rise between 3 and 4 percent and its impairment losses in 2015 would stay below normalised levels.
Its return on equity rose to 13.8 percent in 2014 from the previous year’s 13.1 percent, staying well above the bank’s 12 percent target.
In the fourth quarter, DNB’s pretax profit before impairment charges rose to 6.96 billion crowns ($914 million) from 6.75 billion, missing forecasts for 7.33 billion in a Reuters poll of analysts as its net interest income was below forecasts.
”The quarterly earnings are strong,“ Geir Kristiansen, an analysts at Fondsfinans, said. ”Pretax profit before impairment charges are lower, but that is because of net financials and that’s not core, so that’s why I say it’s a strong quarter.
“The share has been strong recently and the oil price has come down again, but except from that it should react positively,” Kristiansen added.
DNB said it would pay a dividend of 3.80 crowns per share, up from the previous year’s 2.70 crowns and above analysts’ forecast for 3.58 crowns. (Reporting by Balazs Koranyi, Terje Solsvik and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by David Holmes)