3 Min Read
* Q1 net profit CZK 3.08 bln vs 3.14 bln seen in poll
* Bank says lending growth slow as companies cautious
* Shares down 0.6 pct (Adds cut in lending outlook this year, quote, shares)
By Jason Hovet
PRAGUE, May 7 (Reuters) - Czech lender Komercni Banka cut its forecast for loan growth this year to 3-5 percent on Wednesday as companies take a cautious view on a recovering economy and rely on cash reserves.
The export-driven Czech economy has gained momentum in recent months, with rising trade boosting the recovery from a record-long recession that ended last year. But banks are still grappling with near-zero interest rates cutting into margins.
Komercni, which is 60.4 percent owned by France's Societe Generale, had previously forecast its loan portfolio would grow by more than 6 percent this year - with a stronger pick-up in the second half - after a 4.8 percent rise in 2013.
"The solid pace of recovery in the Czech economy has not yet translated into faster growth in business lending, as corporate clients have remained cautious about their investment plans," CEO Albert Le Dirac'h said.
"Companies are financing new investment largely from cash."
Chief Operating Office Pavel Cejka said the lending rise should still materialise, but would come later than expected.
"The loan demand is coming later, which means the loan volume growth will come later. It will come in the second half of the year but will continue into 2015," Cejka told reporters.
"It is more like 3 to 5 percent volume growth (for this year)," he said.
The country's third-biggest bank by assets said loan volume grew by 2.7 percent in the first quarter. Net banking income slipped 0.6 percent to 7.57 billion crowns, versus the average estimate of 7.62 billion in the Reuters poll.
The cost of risk, reflecting provisions against losses from loans and investments, rose 10.2 percent from last year's low levels.
Overall, net profit dipped by 2.1 percent in the first quarter to 3.08 billion crowns ($157.46 million). Analysts in a Reuters poll had given an average forecast for attributable net profit of 3.14 billion crowns.
Shares in the bank were down 0.6 percent at 4,592 crowns at 0851 GMT. Shareholders approved a 230 crown per share dividend from 2013 profit at a general meeting on April 30.
Though the challenging interest rate environment is expected to stretch into 2015, the bank expects net profit to stabilise this year after a 10 percent drop in 2013.
Czech banks have been relatively unscathed in the half-decade since the global financial crisis and Komercni is well-prepared for new regulatory requirements on capital ratios.
$1 = 19.6871 Czech Crowns Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter