UPDATE 1-Bank Austria to boost capital with UniCredit's help

Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:50am EDT

Related Topics

* Looking to parent to help strengthen balance sheet

* Details still under discussion

* Bank Austria 2012 net profit 423 mln euros after charges (Recasts with comments from news conference)

VIENNA, March 18 (Reuters) - Bank Austria aims to strengthen its balance sheet this year with the help of parent UniCredit so it can seize growth opportunities in the region, it said on Monday.

Talks with the Italian parent firm were still at an early stage, bank officials said at Bank Austria's annual results news conference.

"The capital strengthening will come from our parent. What the size of it will be and which instruments we will use is still under discussion," Chief Executive Willibald Cernko said.

Vienna-based Bank Austria more than doubled net profit in 2012 to 423 million euros ($553 million) despite taking charges of 423 million euros on the group's sale of ATF Bank in Kazakhstan and 165 million on goodwill impairments in Ukraine.

UniCredit reported a worse-than-expected fourth-quarter loss on Friday and said Italy's longest recession in two decades would hit earnings again this year.

Bank Austria reported a core tier 1 capital ratio of 10.6 percent of risk-weighted assets at the end of 2012, unchanged from a year earlier.

That was above a 9 percent floor set by the European Banking Authority thanks to retained earnings, a 2 billion euro capital increase by UniCredit in 2012, and a fourth year not paying a dividend.

The bank is still calculating its capital ratio under new Basel III standards to be phased in, but finance chief Francesco Giordano said it would be well above the minimum 7 percent.

"Technically we don't need any capital for Basel III," he said.

"It is partially our own decision on what we consider to be... a capital rate which we consider to be acceptable in agreement with the local regulators. Broadly we expect it to be somewhere between 9 and 10 percent," he told reporters.

He said current estimates suggested Basel III standards would have an impact of less than 1 percent on its capital.

UniCredit could help refinance tier 2 capital that expires this year, he added, or if need be the bank could tap markets for this.

CEO Cernko had said earlier the bank aimed to further reduce risks, strengthen its capital base and invest the capital in central and eastern European countries with the strongest potential for growth.

($1 = 0.7654 euros) (Reporting by Michael Shields; additional reporting Angelika Gruber; editing by Mark Potter and Jason Neely)

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