MILAN May 14 Net profit at Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy's biggest retail bank, fell by 62 percent in the first quarter but still came in slightly above expectations thanks to strong fees, the lender said on Tuesday.
The bank reported a net profit of 306 million euros compared with 804 million euros in the first three months of 2012, when the result was helped by a buyback of its own bonds. A consensus of 8 analysts compiled by Reuters forecast a net profit of 250 million euros.
Loan loss provisions rose by 20 percent to 1.17 billion euros as bad loans continued to increase in crisis-hit Italy.
Like other Italian lenders, Intesa has been struggling to keep a lid on mounting bad debts as Italy's economy battles through its longest recession in 20 years. In 2012, it set aside 4.7 billion euros to cover for bad loans.
The Basel III compliant common equity ratio, a key measure of financial strenght, rose by 10 basis points to 10.7 percent - one of the strongest in Italy.
The first-quarter result marks a return to profit for Intesa, which had booked a loss of 83 million euros in the last three months of 2012 due to losses in its Hungarian unit. (Reporting By Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Lisa Jucca)