STOCKHOLM Dec 24 Swedish bank SEB may pay out half of its profits to shareholders, according to comments by bank's CEO in a Swedish newspaper report on Tuesday.
Nordic banks are some of Europe's healthiest, backed by the region's solid economic growth and robust public finances. Many have boosted capital reserves in the wake of the financial crisis and are now under pressure from investors to return more cash via dividends and share buybacks.
"It is not unreasonable that half of the bank's profits go back to shareholders," Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter quoted CEO Annika Falkengren as saying.
"In our case, the owners supported us in a rights issue during the financial crisis in the spring of 2009," she said.
SEB's dividend policy is to make an annual payout that is 40 percent or above of earnings per share. It paid 52 percent of profits to shareholders for 2012.
SEB and rival Swedbank suffered during the 2008-2009 downturn due to heavy exposures in the hard-hit Baltic region and have since built up stronger buffers. They are now some of Europe's most strongly-capitalised lenders.
But Swedish authorities have said that Swedish banks could face tougher rules for years to come and should retain capital.
"I interpret their demands for lower dividends as we should be restrained and careful," Falkengren said.
SEB's dividend policy is similar to Nordea's and compares with a 75 percent payout ratio for Swedbank. (Reporting by Mia Shanley. Editing by Jane Merriman)