Swedbank plans buyback as it returns to the black

SWEDISH lender Swedbank set more aggressive targets yesterday for returning money to investors after reporting a bumper fourth quarter, driving its shares higher.

The bank was back in the black for the full-year thanks to a recovery in the crisis-hit Baltic market, where heavy loan losses had resulted in a group operating loss of almost 10bn Swedish crowns (£968m) in 2009.

Swedbank made an operating profit in the last three months of 2010 of 3.4bn crowns, more than 20 per cent above what analysts had expected.

Swedbank will start to return some of that extra capital via a 2.10 crowns a share dividend for last year, more than the two crowns expected by analysts, after skipping payouts for 2009.

It also announced a buyback of up to 10 per cent of outstanding shares.