ATHENS – Greece’s recovering economy and sale of non-performing loans to investors collecting debts aggressively has led to a quadrupling of profits at Eurobank, one of the country’s four major financial institutions.
Eurobank, Greece’s largest lender by market value, reported that its profits skyrocketed in 2022 due to higher net interest income and lower provisions for bad loans that increased during the country’s austerity and economic crisis.
The bank, which is owned 1.4% by the country’s Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) bank rescue fund, reported a net profit of €1.33 billion ($1.38 billion), an increase from €328 million ($347.35 million), according to Reuters.
With the lifting of health measures as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, Greece’s economy grew by 5.9% in 2022 as the New Democracy government sought to attract tourists and foreign investors. Eurobank’s net interest income grew by 17.4% year-on-year in 2022 to €1.55 billion ($1.64 billion), driven by higher rates, lending, and its international business.
Eurobank also announced that it will begin paying a dividend out of its earnings in 2024, for the first time since the debt crisis that began in 2010 and required €326 billion ($345.34 billion) in three international financial rescue packages. “The amount earmarked for dividend distribution (in 2023) will be used in an optimal way to bid for the 1.4% HFSF stake through a share buyback scheme,” said Eurobank’s Chief Executive Fokion Karavias. The HFSF fund spent about €40 billion ($42.37 billion) to recapitalize Greece’s four largest lenders during the financial crisis, receiving shares in exchange.
Eurobank’s ratio of bad loans decreased to 5.2% at the end of December, down from 6.8% at the end of 2021, with the stock of non-performing loans decreasing to 2.3 billion euros ($2.44 billion) from 2.8 billion euros ($2.97 billion) at the end of 2021.