UPDATE 1-Komercni raises dividend after earnings top forecasts

Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:21am EST

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By Jason Hovet and Jana Mlcochova

PRAGUE, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Komercni Banka's fourth-quarter net profit rose more than expected and the Czech lender said it would pay a higher dividend after reducing provisions following a hit on Greek government bond holdings the year before.

The bank, majority owned by France's Societe Generale - which posted a loss in the fourth quarter - said it would raise its dividend to 230 crowns per share from 160 crowns the year before.

Shares rose 2.3 percent in early trade, hitting a three-week high and leading gains on the Prague index.

Net profit in the final quarter of 2012 rose 24.7 percent year-on-year to 3.04 billion crowns ($161.4 million), above the average estimate of 2.89 billion in a Reuters poll of 12 analysts.

The bank, the Czech Republic's third-largest by assets, reduced provisioning for bad loans and securities by 69.5 percent, having in the same period last year taken a 1.06 billion crown impairment on the value of Greek bonds.

Gross lending rose 4.1 percent in the year as a whole, led by mortgage loan growth thanks to low interest rates and stabilising low property prices, Komercni Banka said.

But net banking income, while flat on the year, dropped 5.1 percent in the fourth quarter mainly due to lower net interest income and income from financial operations.

The Czech economy has fallen into a shallow recession and has not grown since mid-2011, pushing the central bank to cut interest rates to effectively zero, dragging on bank earnings.

Czech banks came out of the global financial crisis relatively unscathed, though, and the central bank has said the sector was resilient to potential shocks due to having a capital buffer more than twice as large as the threshold set by European regulators.

($1 = 18.8366 Czech crowns) (Editing by David Holmes)

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