BRUSSELS, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Belgian financial group KBC on Thursday posted a better-than-expected net profit for the final quarter of 2016, as it benefited from higher fee and commission income and strong sales of insurance products.
The group, which does most of its business in Belgium and the Czech Republic, said both loans and deposits increased compared to last year.
KBC, which suffered during the crisis in the Irish housing market and still had some 13 billion euros ($13.89 billion) of loans outstanding in that country, said it had decided to keep its Irish operations and was aiming for a 10 percent retail market share in the country.
For the group as a whole, net profit fell 20 percent in the fourth quarter to 685 million euros, but was well above the 520 million expected in a Reuters poll of 12 analysts.
Net profit was lower than last year because of a large exceptional item in the fourth quarter of 2015, due to the liquidation of a financial holding.
After paying an interim dividend of 1 euro in November, KBC said it would propose to pay out another 1.80 euros in May. ($1 = 0.9362 euros) (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Sunil Nair)