November 14, 2017 / 8:10 AM / in a year

UPDATE 2-Raiffeisen beats Q3 profit forecasts as E.Europe markets brighten

* RBI sees economic recovery across eastern Europe

* Capital reserves reach medium-term target

* No word on plan to pay out first dividend in four years

* Shares open higher but later slide 0.7 percent (Adds CEO comment, share price, detail, background)

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) beat third-quarter net profit expectations on Tuesday on improved eastern European markets and lower risk costs.

RBI, which operates across central and eastern Europe (CEE), said net profit rose to 322 million euros ($376 million) in the three months through September from 198 million euros a year earlier.

That beat the 255 million euros forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll, but RBI gave no details on its plan to pay its first dividend in years.

Its shares opened higher, but by 0910 GMT had slipped back to trade down 0.7 percent.

“The broad economic upswing in CEE is reflected in all our segments. We are posting profits in all our markets,” RBI Chief Executive Johann Strobl said in a statement.

That included Poland, which led write-downs in the third quarter and where Raiffeisen is cutting staff and closing branches to improve its local unit’s profitability ahead of a planned listing next year. RBI posted a profit after tax of just 3 million euros in Poland in the quarter.

After years of consolidation and restructuring sparked by the global financial crisis and the tougher regulations that followed, Raiffeisen has been boosting its capital reserves and shedding bad loans.

Measures it has taken to strengthen its finances include merging this year with its parent company Raiffeisen Zentralbank, which had itself sold a stake in insurer Uniqa to bolster its capital reserves.

Ranked third-last in a stress test of 51 major European lenders last year, nine places behind Austrian rival Erste Group , RBI has said it is turning a corner and plans to pay out its first dividend in four years.

It did not mention its dividend plans on Tuesday but said its fully loaded common equity tier 1 ratio, a measure of capital strength, reached its medium-term target of 13 percent at the end of the quarter.

RBI also reiterated its outlook for the year, including a cost-income ratio of 50-55 percent, which it came close to in the third quarter with a figure of 55.6 percent.

$1 = 0.8571 euros Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter

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