Last updated: February 20, 2013 10:59 pm

Second year in red for Crédit Agricole

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Crédit Agricole said it was turning the page on 2012, a year in which it paid for ill-timed acquisitions with a net loss of €6.5bn, triggered by a record quarterly loss in the last three months of the year.

It was the second year in the red for France’s third-largest bank by market value, mainly because of Emporiki, its Greek bank which it sold at a large loss last year. There is no dividend for the second consecutive year.

The bank’s 2012 net loss of €6.5bn was greater than its 2011 net loss of €1.5bn and was deeper than the €5bn net loss reported last week by Peugeot, France’s ailing carmaker.

The figure was dragged down by €8.4bn of exceptional losses, goodwill writedowns and provisions, of which €3.9bn related to Emporiki. There were also losses and writedowns in consumer finance, Italian retail banking and in its Portuguese lender.

Most of the exceptionals were booked in the fourth quarter – as indicated by last month’s profit warning – triggering a net loss of €4bn, up from the net loss of €3bn made in the final quarter of 2011.

Jean-Paul Chifflet, chief executive of Crédit Agricole, said it had been a “complicated, difficult” year. “2012 was a year of transformation and refocusing. We are turning a page and will develop a new medium-term plan this year. It will show that we are moving forward on solid foundations,” he said.

Bernard Delpit, finance director, said the group would deliver this year a “significantly positive” result and “slightly higher” revenues than in 2012, when revenues fell 16 per cent to €16.3bn.

The bank, which has its origins in lending to farmers, has refocused its operations on France where it is the market leader in terms of market share of retail deposits and where it has a large asset management and consumer lending business.

Crédit Agricole said it was on track at group level – including the regional banks which have a 54 per cent stake in the quoted company – for a 10 per cent core tier one capital ratio under the new Basel III capital rules, having achieved 9.3 per cent at the end of December.

It said it did not need to raise capital from shareholders to meet the capital targets. Mr Chifflet also said that the bank had started repaying a small amount of the first tranche of funding taken from the European Central Bank in its LTRO programme.

“It costs us a bit but it’s security, so it’s a question of arbitrage,” he said.

Crédit Agricole, which has also cut back its investment banking business and is engaged in a €650m cost-cutting plan, said that without the exceptional items, net profit in the final quarter of 2012 would have been €548m, up 10 per cent on the same period in 2011, on an underlying basis.

Analysts said the underlying results were better than expected. The shares closed 4 per cent higher at €7.61. They have risen 45 per cent over the past 12 months.

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