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Piraeus Bank posts higher fourth-quarter profit on net interest income boost

FILE PHOTO: A man cast his shadow on an ATM machine of a Piraeus Bank branch in Athens

ATHENS (Reuters) -Piraeus Bank, Greece's fourth-largest lender by market value, reported higher quarterly net earnings on Friday, helped by lower costs and an increase in net interest income and fees.

The bank, which is 27% owned by the country's HFSF bank rescue fund, reported net earnings of 170 million euros ($180.03 million) in the fourth quarter, compared with a profit of 78 million euros in the same period a year earlier.

Piraeus Bank's book of so-called non-performing exposures (NPE) continued to shrink to a ratio of 6.8% at the end of 2022 from 9% in September.

According to the company's updated business plan it aims to shrink NPE to below 6% this year and possibly start paying dividends from 2024 onwards.

"Piraeus has delivered strong financial results, outperforming its targets across the board," the bank's Chief Executive Christos Megalou said.

In 2022, the company reported normalised earnings per share of 0.42 euro, beating its target of 0.37 euro.

Net interest income in the fourth quarter rose to 405 million euros from 205 million euros in the same period a year earlier, due to loan book expansion and a favourable interest rate environment, Piraeus Bank said.

For the full year, the company posted a net profit of 899 million euros, compared with a loss of 3 billion euros a year earlier.

Greek banks have been working to reduce a pile of non-performing credit, the legacy of a decade-long financial crisis that shrank the economy by a quarter.

($1 = 0.9443 euros)

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)