France's Credit Agricole hopes Emporiki is darkness before dawn

Thu Nov 8, 2012 7:01pm EST

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PARIS, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Credit Agricole is expected to report a steep quarterly loss on Friday after paying heavily to make a definitive exit from Greece by selling Emporiki Bank.

The French semi-cooperative bank announced last month that it would take a 2 billion euro ($2.55 billion) loss on the sale of Emporiki to Alpha Bank, but it is hoping that the deal will set it up for more stable earnings going forward.

Optimism about the sale, along with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's July pledge to defend the euro, has led to an 83 percent rally in its shares over the past three months.

Still, analysts are split between those who believe that the shares, which trade at just over a third of Credit Agricole's book value, remain cheap and those who are concerned about the bank's long-term growth prospects and ability to comply with tougher capital rules.

After subtracting one-off charges, such as the Emporiki deal, and writedowns on its stake in Spain's Bankinter, the bank is expected to post flat quarterly operating profit of 840 million euros, according to Starmine Smart Estimate, which weights analysts according to accuracy.

Like its larger rivals BNP Paribas and Societe Generale, which reported earnings this week, Credit Agricole's smaller investment bank is likely to have benefited from a quarter of strong corporate debt issuance.

Credit Agricole's management can expect to be peppered with questions from analysts and investors wanting to know the scale of the impact of tougher regulations on European investment banks and what steps it plans to take to pull back from investments in lenders in peripheral euro zone countries. ($1 = 0.7857 euros) (Reporting By Christian Plumb; Editing by David Goodman)

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