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Alpha Bank swings to Q4'19 profit; coronavirus impact expected in H1

Alpha Bank AE booked a fourth-quarter 2019 profit after tax attributable to equity owners of the bank of €5.4 million, compared to a year-ago loss of €900,000.

Net interest income for the quarter came in at €387.1 million, down from €426.6 million a year earlier, while net fee and commission income increased year over year to €93.1 million from €86.3 million. Income from financial operations was up on a yearly basis to €121.1 million from €64.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The Greek lender's net interest margin was 2.5% in the fourth quarter of 2019, down from 2.8% a year earlier.

Extraordinary costs amounted to €73.4 million, up from €56.4 million a year earlier. These costs include expenses for €50 million worth of separation schemes booked in the fourth quarter of 2019, legal provisions of €21 million and annual fixed asset impairment of €17 million.

Impairment losses on loans for the period declined year over year to €244.8 million from €704 million.

For full-year 2019, the Athens-based bank reported an attributable profit after tax of €97 million, up from €53 million in the same period in 2018.

Total impairment losses on loans for 2019 stood at €994.8 million, down 42.3% from €1.72 billion in the preceding year.

Alpha Bank said the coronavirus crisis is expected to slow down the growth of the Greek economy and the effects are expected in the first half. It noted that both national and European regulators have taken steps to support the country's economy, while the lender itself said it will continually assess the impact of the virus as it has been doing.

READ MORE: Sign up for our weekly coronavirus newsletter here, and read our latest coverage on the crisis here.

"The actions taken by the Greek government and the European authorities provide significant flexibility and support, enabling Alpha Bank to withstand the impact from this volatile period before we start to see a return to normal economic activity," CEO Vassilios Psaltis said, adding that the bank had made a timely transition to crisis mode.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lender has suspended loan repayments for individual borrowers and small customers for three months, along with a forbearance of capital payments until September 2020 for all companies directly impacted by the coronavirus.

As of Dec. 31, 2019, Alpha Bank's common equity Tier 1 ratio stood at 17.9%, compared to 17.4% at 2018-end. The fully loaded Basel III CET1 ratio stood at 14.9% at the end of 2019.