National Bank of Greece achieves high economic profits

Nine-month net profit of the National Bank of Greece rose 66 percent on strong loan growth and the consolidation of its recent Turkish acquisition.

The numbers also reflected the bank's sale in April of a minority stake in AGET Heracles Cement to majority shareholder Lafarge Group, and included a 20 million EUR(US$29.5 million) donation to the relief fund for victims of last summer's massive forest fires in Greece.

For the nine months to Sept. 30, the company said net profit was €1.31 billion (US$1.93 billion), compared with 791.4 million EUR(US$1.17 billion) in the same period a year earlier.

Net interest income rose by 53 percent to 2.22 billion EUR(US$3.25 billion) from 1.45 billion EUR(US$2.14 billion) in the same period of 2006, while total income rose to 3.28 billion EUR(US$4.84 billion) from 2.12 billion EUR(US$3.13 billion).

The figures were higher than analyst expectations of a 61 percent jump in net profit and slightly above expectations of a 52 percent rise in net interest income.

Like other Greek lenders, NBG has been riding a consumer lending boom in Greece thanks to low real interest rates, a buoyant property market and the easing of consumer credit restrictions.

In mid-August last year, NBG completed its acquisition of a 46 percent stake in Turkey's Finansbank and has since raised its holding to 89.44 percent.

"Foreign subsidiaries contributed over a third of total profit, with Finansbank holding the first place, delivering net profit of 349 million EUR(US$515 million)," Chairman and Chief Executive Takis Arapoglou said in a statement.

NBG shares closed Thursday up 0.80 EUR(US$1.18), or 1.9 percent, at 43.50 EUR(US$64.18). The Greek lender's shares have risen 21 percent this year, nearly double the 11 percent rise of the Athens Stock Exchange general index.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova