French bank pays in shares

NEARLY two thirds of shareholders in Société Générale chose to take their 2009 dividend in shares, indicating hope the French bank’s anaemic performance will improve.

SocGen issued new shares amounting to almost three per cent of its capital to satisfy investors’ demands. Shareholders received stock equal to the dividend of €0.45 per share.

SocGen -- whose dividend in 2006, before the €4.9bn (£4.1bn) rogue trading scandal and the financial crisis, was a meatier €5.20 per share -- is trying to mend itself. The Paris-headquartered institution in February posted a weak fourth quarter profit of €221m, up from €87m a year earlier but below its third quarter number.

The bank is eyeing a more successful 2010 as it shifts its focus back to its historic retail banking roots.