UPDATE 2-Credit Agricole prepares for worst on Greece

Fri May 11, 2012 3:39am EDT

Related Topics

* Q1 net profit 252 mln euros, vs forecast 623 mln

* Q1 revenue rises 2.3 pct to 5.43 bln euros

* Core tier 1 ratio 9.4 pct, vs 8.6 pct at end-2011

* Takes 567 mln euros charge on Greek Emporiki unit

* Shares down 1.9 percent (Adds quotes from conference call)

By Christian Plumb and Matthieu Protard

PARIS, May 11 (Reuters) - Credit Agricole is prepared for all possible outcomes in Greece, the French bank's chief executive said, after charges at its business in the debt-laden country helped trigger a steeper-than-expected 75 percent drop in quarterly profit.

Jean-Paul Chifflet told reporters on Friday the bank had teams working to prepare for outcomes including a possible Greek exit from the euro zone even if it still regards that as a less probable scenario.

"We have been working for several quarters on this concern and have formed a close-knit team to examine it," he said. "We are in any case prepared for all possible outcomes even if we think this (an exit) is the less likely outcome."

France's No.3 bank took 940 million euros ($1.22 billion) in Greece-related writedowns, the latest blow from its ill-fated acquisition of its Emporiki business there.

Banks across Europe have taken big hits on assets in Greece as part of an international bailout of the country, and fear there could be more to come as it wavers over whether to implement the austerity drive demanded by its rescuers.

Credit Agricole shares were down 1.9 percent in early trading. Concern about Greece has contributed to a 22 percent drop in the shares so far this year, compared with a flat European sector.

The global bank with roots in rural France said in March Emporiki, a drag on profits since its acquisition in 2006, would have to take new hits on loans to state-controlled entities as part of the wider 130 billion-euro bailout of Greece.

Credit Agricole took a 567 million-euro charge for Emporiki and an additional 373 million for the impact of the Greek private sector bailout and accompanying debt forgiveness on its own accounts.

The lender, which has been slimming down its investment bank to refocus on its network of regional cooperative banks, also took a 224 million-euro charge related to its ongoing plan to cut liquidity needs and risk-weighted assets.

First-quarter net profit slid to 252 million euros, lagging the average estimate of 623 million in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S analyst poll.

Group revenue rose 2.3 percent to 5.43 billion euros, beating the poll average of 5.05 billion.

Credit Agricole's core Tier 1 ratio, a key measure of financial strength, stood at 9.4 percent at the end of the quarter, up from 8.6 percent at the end of 2011.

Credit Agricole, which is cutting 2,350 jobs in a cull at its investment bank as part of a wider plan to lower its funding needs, said talks are continuing on the sale of its Asian CLSA brokerage unit to China's Citic Securities.

As for Cheuvreux, the European brokerage which Citic had initially contemplated buying a 20 percent stake in, the bank is now mulling all possible options for the unit, Chifflet said. A final decision on Cheuvreux's destiny is another month or so away, he added.

As of the end of April, Credit Agricole said it had achieved 70 percent of targeted reductions in liquidity requirements.

Like larger rivals BNP Paribas and Societe Generale, Credit Agricole has been scrambling to shrink its balance sheet amid a funding drought and as tougher capital requirements loom.

($1 = 0.7716 euro) (Reporting by Christian Plumb; Editing by James Regan and Mark Potter)

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