* NBG posts 181 mln euro Q1 profit, above analyst forecasts
* Eurobank's Q1 loss of 207 mln euros broadly in line with
(Adds Eurobank, NBG CEO comment, details)
By George Georgiopoulos
ATHENS, May 28 Greece's biggest lender by
assets, National Bank (NBG), reported
higher-than-expected profit in the first quarter, helped by
lower funding costs, its Turkish unit Finansbank and
reduced provisions for bad loans.
The group posted net earnings of 181 million euros ($246
million) in January to March, its sixth straight profitable
quarter. Analysts polled by Reuters were forecasting net profit
of 24 million euros on average.
NBG said Finansbank contributed 63 million euros
of profit, despite the significant rise in Turkish interest
rates and a challenging quarter in that market.
Greek banks have been struggling with rising bad loans
during a deep recession which has driven unemployment to almost
Record joblessness has made it hard for borrowers to service
their debt, forcing lenders to hike loan-loss provisions, even
though the pace is slowing from previous years.
Greece's economy shrank 1.1 percent in the first quarter,
year-on-year, but the government and its international lenders
expect it to pull out from recession and expand by 0.6 percent
NBG said provisions for non-performing loans (NPLs) - credit
in arrears for more than 90 days - fell 15 percent year-on-year
in the first quarter to 362 million euros. NPLs rose to 23
percent of its book from 22.5 percent at the end of 2013.
"Our unique liquidity position versus our peers in Greece
allows us to provide substantive support to the economy at a
time when the country is gradually steering out of the crisis
and back to growth," Chief Executive Alexandros Tourkolias said.
Peer Eurobank reported a loss of 207 million
euros, broadly in line with market expectations, as loan-loss
provisions continued to weigh on its bottom line.
The bank, 35.4 percent owned by Greece's HFSF bank rescue
fund, said bad debt provisions fell to 479 million euros in the
first quarter from 647 million in the previous three-month
period with the pace of new impaired loans slowing.
Non-performing credit rose to 30.9 percent of Eurobank's
loan book from 29.4 percent in the last quarter of 2013.
(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas Editing by Jeremy