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National Bank Profit Beats Estimates as Outlook Improves

May 28 (Bloomberg) -- National Bank of Greece SA, the country’s biggest bank, posted a profit in the first quarter that beat analysts’ estimates in another sign of the improved outlook for Greek lenders.

National Bank said net income rose to 181 million euros ($246 million) in the three months ended March 31, from 27 million euros a year earlier. That beat the 20 million-euro median estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. Eurobank Ergasias SA, Greece’s third-biggest bank, posted a net loss of 207.4 million euros, its best result in four quarters. That also beat the median estimate of five analyst estimates for a 229.5 million-euro loss.

National Bank “has successfully risen to the challenges of the difficult economic crisis,” Alexandros Tourkolias, the bank’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Greece’s four systemically important banks, which were bailed out after taking losses as a result of the country’s sovereign debt crisis and six-year recession, have between them raised 8.3 billion euros through capital increases since March. The lenders were helped by investor bets that Greece is recovering from a crisis that necessitated a 240 billion-euro international bailout.

National Bank, which completed its 2.5 billion-euro capital increase this month, said its Turkish unit Finansbank AS contributed 63 million euros to its first-quarter net income. Loan-loss provisions fell 15 percent to 362 million euros from a year earlier. The share sale boosted its pro-forma core Tier 1 ratio, a measure of the strength of its capital, to 15.4 percent.

Lower Provisions

National’s plan to sell a “significant stake” in Finansbank will take place “sometime in 2015,” the bank’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer Petros Christodoulou told investors on a conference call today.

Eurobank’s first-quarter loss, which compared with a 375 million-euro profit a year earlier, was driven by 479 million euros of provisions, increasing its coverage ratio for loans in arrears by 0.4 percentage points to 50.3 percent, the lender said. Provisions were down from 647.1 million euros in the fourth quarter and up from the same period a year earlier.

Managing the bank’s portfolio of loans in arrears, which stood at 30.9 percent of the total, is the bank’s top priority following completion of a 2.9 billion-euro share capital increase that boosted its pro forma core Tier 1 ratio to 17.7 percent, Eurobank chief executive officer Christos Megalou said in the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marcus Bensasson in Athens at mbensasson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net Marco Bertacche, Mark Bentley

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