* Fourth quarter net profit 3.7 bln Swedish crowns
* Posts write-off in real estate portfolio
* 2013 dividend below analyst forecasts
* Says capital uncertainty remains, buybacks not on table
(Adds background, details)
STOCKHOLM, Jan 28 Swedish banking group Swedbank
is bracing for tougher capital rules in the Nordic country, it
said on Tuesday, as it announced a smaller than expected
dividend and said share buybacks were off the table until
regulatory uncertainty cleared.
Swedbank also said its net profit for continuing
operations slid 13 percent to 3.67 billion Swedish crowns ($571
million) in the fourth quarter, missing a mean forecast for 3.96
billion in a Reuters poll of analysts, weighed down by a
write-down in its portfolio of repossessed real estate.
Investors have been waiting for Nordic banks to start
returning what some of them view as "excess" capital, with
Swedbank's core tier one capital ratio - a key measure of
financial strength - rising to 18.3 percent at the end of the
fourth quarter from 15.4 percent at end-2012.
Sweden's financial watchdog will require Swedish banks to
have a 12 percent core tier one capital ratio by 2015 but
authorities still need to hammer out other details such as
counter-cyclical capital buffers.
Swedbank said there was too much regulatory uncertainty.
"If we look at the capital uncertainty that now prevails, we
cannot in the current situation say that we have excess
capital," CEO Michael Wolf said on a call with journalists.
Asked whether the bank could start considering share
buybacks, Wolf said: "We need to get more clarity on capital
regulation before we can discuss this issue."
The Swedish bank, the first of the Nordic banks to report
earnings for the quarter, said it would pay a 10.1 crown per
share dividend for the year, up from the year before but below
an average forecast in a Reuters poll for 10.4 crowns per share.
Swedbank suffered during 2008-2009 as a deep recession hit
customers in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, but it was early to
raise capital and has benefited from a healthy economic backdrop
at home in Sweden.
The bank said the write-off in its Ektornet portfolio of
repossessed properties, mainly in the Baltics, had amounted to
311 million crowns in the quarter.
Swedbank's share price has gained more than 35 percent in
the past year, roughly in line with peers and faster than an 11
percent rise in the European banking stocks index.
($1 = 6.4312 Swedish crowns)
(Reporting by Mia Shanley and Johan Ahlander; Editing by Mark