SocGen sees profit recovery on track

City A.M. Reporter
French bank Societe Generale's plan to get profits back to pre-crisis levels is on track, it has said, after a pick-up in retail banking and its equities derivatives business helped boost fourth-quarter earnings.

Its chief executive, Frederic Oudea Oudea, said revenues were growing at its investment bank, a key element in the group's 2012 turnaround target, to help the bank's shares hit a 13-month high.

"2011 means more revenues than 2010, that is clear," said.

SocGen, France's second-biggest bank, has already said it will "optimise" its portfolio of assets via sales and acquisitions, but Oudea said for now there were no attractive assets on the market.

SocGen shares were up 4.7 per cent, at €51.16 (£43.00), after the bank met expectations with a near quadrupling in its fourth-quarter net profit and announced a sharp increase in the dividend.

"This (fourth-quarter result) justifies the rebound of the stock over the past few months ... The dividend increase is also a good sign," said Francois Chaulet, head of Montsegur Finance.

Its rise lifted rivals BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and Natixis by between 3 and 4.7 per cent.

SocGen stuck to its 2012 net profit target of €6bn after reporting a 2010 profit of €3.9bn, more than five times its 2009 level and above its 2006 level of €5.2bn, before the bank hit trouble.

Oudea is attempting to boost investor confidence after the financial crisis and the Jerome Kerviel rogue trading scandal and catch up with arch-rival BNP, whose market value is now almost double SG's.

BNP's shares are down 27 per cent since the end of 2006, while SocGen's have tumbled 55 per cent.

SocGen also said it would not need to raise new capital to maintain its core Tier 1 capital adequacy ratio at 8.5 per cent when tougher Basel III banking rules are introduced from 2013.

The ratio was 8.5 per cent at the end of last year.