March 6, 2018 / 6:21 AM / 18 days ago

Israel's Bank Leumi Q4 profit jumps, to buy back shares

TEL AVIV, March 6 (Reuters) - Bank Leumi, Israel’s second-largest lender, beat forecasts for fourth-quarter net profit as financing income rose and credit loss provisions declined.

Leumi said on Tuesday it earned 854 million shekels ($247 million) in the quarter, up from 443 million a year earlier. It had been forecast to earn 823.6 million shekels, according to a Reuters poll of analysts.

Leumi’s net interest income rose to 2.09 billion shekels in the quarter from 1.87 billion, while it had credit loss expenses of 26 million shekels compared with 46 million a year earlier.

The bank declared a quarterly dividend of 342 million shekels, equal to 40 percent of net profit. Last March, Leumi adopted a dividend policy for the first time in six years.

Leumi also said it would buy back up to 700 million shekels of its own shares between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, subject to meeting a Tier 1 equity ratio of no less than 10.9 percent.

The bank’s Tier 1 ratio, which measures equity capital as a proportion of total risk-weighted assets, rose to 11.43 percent at the end of December from 11.15 percent at the end of 2016.

$1 = 3.4632 shekels Reporting by Steven Scheer and Tova Cohen

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