TBC Bank posts robust annual profit on loan growth

(Reuters) - Georgia's largest retail lender TBC Bank Group TBCG.L posted a 20% surge in annual underlying profit on Thursday as a strong economy supported lending.

The upbeat results cap a tough year for TBC, whose chairman Mamuka Khazaradze and deputy Badri Japaridze stepped down from the board after prosecutors charged them with money laundering.

The FTSE 250-listed bank said underlying profit climbed to 545.1 million lari (£150 million) for the year ended Dec. 31, from 454.9 million lari ($161.89 million) a year earlier.

The economy of Georgia, a former Soviet republic, expanded 5.2% in 2019 with food processing and transport among sectors showing the fastest growth, preliminary data showed in January.

The country's economic strength has historically aided TBC and its main rival Bank of Georgia BGEO.L in booking solid earnings through loan book growth.

Tbilisi-based TBC, which was started nearly a quarter century ago with just $500 in capital, said its loan book expanded by 22.1% to reach 12.66 billion lari.

The company also stood by its medium-term targets that include a loan book growth of around 10-15%.

However, TBC’s net interest margin - the main indicator of a bank’s financial strength - slipped to 5.6% from 6.9%.

Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty