February 8, 2019 / 11:44 AM / 7 months ago

Italy's UBI Banca steps up loan writedowns, revenue falls

MILAN, Feb 8 (Reuters) - UBI Banca posted a 12 annual percent drop in fourth quarter revenue on Friday as it stepped up writedowns of soured loans, putting pressure on shares in Italy’s fifth-largest bank.

The bank’s full-year gross operating profit of 1.07 billion euros ($1.2 billion) was 1.7 percent lower than anticipated and the cost-income ratio “relatively high” at 69.5 percent, Akros analyst Luigi Tramontana said.

Shares in UBI Banca fell as much as 5 percent following the results, and were 1.8 percent lower at 2.183 euros by 1003 GMT, despite its fourth-quarter net profit being boosted by a positive 186 million euro tax impact to reach 215 million euros.

The bank said it had booked 253.5 million euros of writedowns on problem loans in the fourth quarter as it studied possible sales.

Banks normally offload bad loans at a loss because the prices available on the market are below book value.

Italian banks are still wrestling with a pile of soured debt left behind by a recession despite having shed more than 140 billion euros in problem loans in the past two years.

UBI said it had sold bad debt for 1.85 billion euros last year, while it had recovered loans totalling 850 million euros. ($1 = 0.8818 euros) (Reporting by Valentina Za Editing by Alexander Smith)

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