November 8, 2017 / 6:09 AM / 2 years ago

Credit Agricole's third-quarter profits fall as bank ramps up M&A to boost growth

PARIS (Reuters) - Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) reported underwhelming third-quarter profits as its markets trading and French retail banking arms struggled, hitting shares of France’s second-biggest listed bank.

FILE PHOTO: Logos are pictured on a Credit Agricole bank branch in Paris, France, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

The bank continued to narrow its focus in the quarter and sought to woo investors with more acquisitions in Italy - one of its key markets alongside France - while selling most of its holding in its Egyptian banking business.

Its reported net income came in at 1.07 billion euros ($1.24 billion), compared to analysts’ forecasts for 1.03 billion euros, while revenues were below expectations at 4.58 billion versus a forecast for 4.76 billion according to a Reuters poll.

Financial market trading was a dark spot for the bank, as with many rivals, with revenue from capital markets dropping 28 percent from a year earlier when it was boosted by higher market activity due to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Competitors Societe Generale (SocGen) (SOGN.PA) and BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) also reported drops of more than a quarter in fixed income, currencies and commodities revenues, although Natixis (CNAT.PA) beat forecasts this week with its net profit.

Credit Agricole's shares were down 4.4 percent in early trading, among the worst performers in France's CAC-40 index .FCHI, which was down 0.1 percent. The bank also fell further than the STOXX Europe 600 Banking index .SX7P, which dipped 0.4 percent.

“Like a lot of other banks, they had problems in fixed income and trading, which is where Credit Agricole suffered,” said Prime Partners fund manager Francois Savary, who said he preferred BNP Paribas - a stock his fund holds - to Credit Agricole.

Underlying revenue at Credit Agricole’s French bank LCL fell 3.4 percent, weighed down by a fall in home loans renegotiation fees and the impact of renegotiations on its interest margin.

Credit Agricole, which owns a majority stake in fund management firm Amundi (AMUN.PA), has been making acquisitions in the asset and wealth management sectors to bolster returns after years of slimming its balance sheet to adapt to tougher European capital requirements.

It has revamped shareholding ties with its cooperative parent banks with a promise of a stronger capital base, helping lift its share price to eclipse SocGen as France’s second-biggest bank by market capitalization.

As part of its efforts to concentrate on key markets in France and Italy, it recently announced the acquisition of three small banks in Italy and a majority holding in Banca Leonardo.

Credit Agricole said the acquisitions, which are not yet finalised, would have a negative impact of 15 basis points for its key capital ratio.

The French bank said it did not expect major moves in the sector for now.

“We do not believe in a European banking consolidation in the short term ... all regulations are against it,” Chief Executive Philippe Brassac told reporters.

Brassac, who has previously said his bank would have been interested in Commerzbank (CBKG.DE) if it was for sale, said it had no plans for buying the German bank or a stake.

“The priority is organic growth,” he said.

($1 = 0.8624 euros)

Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva and Matthieu Protard; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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