VIENNA, March 18 UniCredit's Bank
Austria unit, emerging Europe's leading lender, aims to cut its
exposure to risk after weak economies in the region triggered
one-off charges that dented 2012 results, it said on Monday.
Italy's 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.
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.
"We thereby aim to further reduce risks, strengthen the
capital base and invest the capital which becomes available
through this (ATF stake sale) in those CEE (Central and Eastern
European) countries with the strongest potential for growth,"
Chief Executive Willibald Cernko said in a statement.
"I would like to emphasise that this decision does not
change our commitment to the region of Central and Eastern
Europe," he added, noting its CEE banking units accounted for 75
percent of overall results in 2012.
"For this reason the region will remain the growth market at
our doorstep - even if we need to take a differentiated view of
the individual markets."
($1 = 0.7654 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Mark Potter)