UPDATE 1-Argentina's Galicia posts slightly higher 4th-qtr profit
BUENOS AIRES Feb 15 (Reuters) - Leading Argentine banking conglomerate Grupo Financiero Galicia reported slightly higher fourth-quarter earnings on Friday but fell just short of market expectations.
Net profit rose to 368.2 million pesos ($74.8 million) from 355.1 million pesos in the same period of 2011. In a Reuters poll of five analysts, the median profit forecast was 373 million pesos, with estimates ranging from 350 million to 395 million pesos.
Argentina's financial sector continued to flourish in 2012 despite a sharp economic slowdown, and Galicia's main affiliate, Banco Galicia, expanded its market share of private-sector loans and deposits over the course of the year.
Grupo Galicia's net profit totaled 1.34 billion pesos in 2012, up nearly 21 percent from 2011, the company said in a statement to the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange.
Banco Galicia posted a fourth-quarter net profit of 361.3 million pesos, up from 359.0 million pesos a year earlier. The bank's 2012 net profit rose to 1.30 billion pesos from 1.11 billion pesos in 2011.
As of Dec. 31, the bank's market share of loans to the private sector was 9.05 percent, while its share of private-sector deposits was 9.12 percent. Banco Galicia is the biggest privately owned Argentine bank.