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UPDATE 1-Higher core income boosts Greece's National Bank Q3 profit

(Adds CEO comment, details)

ATHENS, Nov 30 (Reuters) - National Bank (NBG), one of Greece’s four largest lenders, on Monday reported higher third-quarter net profit compared to the second quarter on stronger fee and net interest income.

NBG, 40 percent owned by the country’s HFSF bank rescue fund, said net profit from continued operations reached 137 million euros ($164.26 million), versus net earnings of 58 million euros in the second quarter.

NBG said its ratio of non-performing exposures (NPEs), which includes non-performing loans (NPLs) and other credit likely to turn bad, eased to 29.3% of its loan book from 29.9% in June.

The bank said it plans to launch the securitisation of its ‘Project Frontier’ impaired loans portfolio in a few weeks, a transaction that will slash its current 10 billion euros NPE exposure by about 6.0 billion euros.

“Our exposure to legacy NPEs is set to be reduced to levels previously experienced almost a decade ago, allowing us to focus on growth opportunities and restoring our profitability to more appropriate levels,” CEO Paul Mylonas said in a statement.

Greek banks have offered businesses and households hit by the coronavirus pandemic a six-month freeze on loan payments as part of relief efforts to help borrowers cope with the economic fallout from the virus lockdowns.

NBG’s loan payment moratoria, extended to corporate and retail clients, amounted to 3.6 billion euros. After the expiry of moratoria, the bank said it will offer step-up solutions to borrowers who continue to experience short-term difficulties.

The group said net interest income recovered by 11.9% quarter-on-quarter to 290 million euros, driven by the expansion of its performing loans book and lower funding costs as it made use of the ECB’s TLTRO facility.

$1 = 0.8340 euros Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Dan Grebler