October 24, 2018 / 5:32 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 2-Nordea profit misses estimates as margins shrink

(Adds details, CEO comment)

By Jussi Rosendahl and Anne Kauranen

HELSINKI, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Nordea posted a larger than expected drop in third-quarter profit on Wednesday, citing pressure on margins, as the company hit back at allegations of lax controls, saying it had spent years beefing up anti-money laundering resources.

On Monday, American-born businessman Bill Browder widened a criminal complaint against the bank for facilitating suspicious money transfers worth $400 million out of the Baltics between 2007 and 2013.

Nordea is the second Nordic bank to face such allegations, after Danske Bank came under investigation for suspicious payments totalling 200 billion euros ($234 billion) from 2007 onwards through its Estonian branch.

Chief executive Casper von Koskull said he could not comment on individual cases but that the bank has invested heavily in financial crime prevention in recent years.

“We have very close, very good cooperation with all authorities related to this,” he said in a conference call.

“We don’t accept that our platform is used for money-laundering.”

Shares in Nordea were down 0.9 percent at 0812 GMT , underperforming the European bank index, which was down 0.6 percent.

In 2015 Nordea was fined 50 million Swedish crowns ($5.62 million) by Sweden’s Financial Supervisory Authority, the maximum fine at the time, for breaches in anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism rules.

That followed a 30 million fine in 2013 for lack of sufficient governance and internal controls relating to anti-money laundering regulation.

In 2017, Nordea was one of nine banking firms fined by Luxemburg’s financial supervision authority for breaches relating to the so-called Panama Papers.

DIFFICULT CONDITIONS

Nordea, which this month moved its headquarters to Finland from Sweden, posted a steeper-than-expected fall in third-quarter profit earlier on Wednesday, citing difficult market conditions and lower corporate activity.

Operating profit fell 21 percent from a year earlier to 866 million euros ($993 million), missing analysts’ average expectation from a Reuters poll of 930 million euros.

“Third-quarter revenues were disappointing and also characterised by seasonality,” von Koskull said in a statement.

“Growing lending volumes improved the net interest income but (that) was offset by margin pressure, mainly in the household segment.”

Nordea repeated its forecast for a higher 2018 net profit and said loan losses in coming quarters were likely to be smaller than a long-term average.

Nordea and Norwegian bank DNB announced last month they had entered an agreement to sell 60 percent of their joint Baltic operations to Blackstone.

($1 = 0.8718 euros)

Additional reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Jan Harvey

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