May 2, 2019 / 7:30 AM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 1-Czech bank MONETA lifts dividend outlook, plans share buyback

(Adds CEO comments, profit, shares)

PRAGUE, May 2 (Reuters) - Czech lender MONETA Money Bank increased its planned dividend payout for the next three years on Thursday and said it would seek approval for a share buyback programme.

Chief Executive Tomas Spurny said the buyback would be worth up to 1 billion Czech crowns ($44 million) and could start towards the end of this year if the bank secured regulatory and shareholder approval, and would likely last 9-12 months.

MONETA shares rose almost 3 percent in early trading.

The bank has sought to grow through acquisitions but its talks with Home Credit to buy the consumer finance group’s Czech and Slovak businesses and Czech lender Air Bank fell apart in February after MONETA sought a lower price.

Spurny said MONETA was concentrating on growing its existing business, although it was looking at acquisition opportunities. It could also be an acquisition target, he said, while declining to comment on any possible talks.

Spurny said the new dividend plan - which commits to a minimum payout of 10.2 billion crowns over the next three years, up from the 8.6 billion envisaged previously - left room for potential acquisitions.

“If we were to do a deal we would go for issuance of equity and would rely on that as the main source of financing of a potential acquisition,” he said on a conference call.

“So we would not seek to hold capital in order to buy something and then surprise the market with that.”

The bank reported first-quarter net profit of 983 million crowns, in line with analyst expectations. Net banking income rose 6.9 percent to 2.55 billion crowns.

It maintained a forecast for 2019 net profit of 3.7 billion.

It said it expected to pay a dividend per share of 6.65 crowns from 2019 profit, and also in 2020 and 2021. Previously it had forecast a payout of 5.40 to 5.90 crowns per share for 2019-2021.

MONETA said it had raised the payout plan on the back of its overall capital strategy, current performance and good first-quarter results.

Its capital adequacy ratio stood at 17 percent after the first quarter and MONETA said it aimed to get it closer to its 15.5 percent target.

$1 = 22.8750 Czech crowns Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Potter

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