Raiffeisen Expects Loan Losses as Eastern Europe ‘Tense’

Raiffeisen Bank International AG, eastern Europe’s second-biggest lender, expects loan losses to put a drag on profits this year because of economic uncertainty in several countries.

Raiffeisen, which reported its first quarterly loss since at least 2005 in the final three months of last year, foresees provisions for loan losses this year similar to the 1.01 billion euros ($1.32 billion) it set aside for 2012, the Vienna-based company said in its annual report today.

“In light of the economic prospects, the situation remains tense in several of our markets,” Raiffeisen said. “In 2013, we therefore expect a similar net provisioning requirement as in the previous year.”

Raiffeisen confirmed preliminary earnings published in February that showed a loss of 117 million euros in the fourth quarter compared with 222 million euros a year previously, caused by a 37 percent rise in bad debt charges and goodwill writedowns in Ukraine.

Overdue loans are proving persistent in eastern Europe, where they make up more than a fifth of all lending in countries including Ukraine, Hungary and Romania. Policy makers and economists warn bad debt is choking off credit and hurting prospects for growth in the former communist part of the continent. Raiffeisen Chief Executive Officer Herbert Stepic said in January that non-performing loans will continue to grow.

An increase in bad debt charges in the fourth quarter was mainly caused by problems with large corporate loans in Austria, Raiffeisen said. Non-performing loans in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia also weighed, it said.