Intesa Sanpaolo’s poor 2013 blamed on Hungary, Ukraine


Add Intesa Sanpaolo to the list of banks having a difficult time of things in Hungary. Along with home-based OTP and Austria-based Erste, the country’s two biggest private lenders, Intesa Sanpaolo is also undergoing an “ordeal” of sorts in a troubling environment.

On Friday, Intesa Sanpaolo released its first half results for 2013 in a report that, like an earlier statement of earnings from the Erste Group, could be called “disappointing.” Through six months of 2013, Intesa recorded a net interest income of €4.063 billion, down 17.6% year-on-year; net income was down a whopping 66.9% y.o.y. to just €422 million. Loan loss provisions accounted for some €2.564 billion, an increase of 24.8% over the 2012 period.

And perhaps most damning of all were the tiny returns shown by the group’s International Subsidiary Banks Division: This section retuned a net income of just €12 million, down a huge 77.8% year-on-year; in announcing the results, Intesa Sanpaolo representatives chalked this poor result up to “the negative contribution from the subsidiaries in Hungary [CIB Bank] and Ukraine [Pravex-bank].” These two branches cost Intesa some €219 million over the six months.

Two weeks ago, Ukraine-based media reported that Intesa Sanpaolo was in fact interested in selling off the Pravex-bank operation due to recent negative results. Erste Group Bank and Germany-based Commerzbank have also recently divested their interests in that country.

In a conference call to investors and media on Friday afternoon, Intesa representatives provided no real specifics as to the future of CIB Bank, but General Manager/Deputy CEO Carlo Messina did suggest the group would be staying in Hungary for the time being – while simultaneously dropping a pop culture reference as a metaphor for doing business in the country.

When asked about the forex-based mortgage loan situation in Hungary, Messina took participants to the movies: “On Hungary, it’s always difficult to make a comment … it reminds me of that scene in Forrest Gump when the mother is dying and on her deathbed, she says [that] life is just like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re going to get,” he said. “So it depends upon the flavor of the day. I mean we have to deal with it in a very careful way, [it’s] difficult to make predictions. We [are trying] our best to understand the situation to cooperate and see what we can do.

“In any case, our exposure to mortgages in FX is not huge: It’s south of €700 million and it’s not a huge risk. It is of course, something that is an issue and that we monitor it, but we don’t think it is a fatal issue. I mean we are much more concerned about the general situation and hopefully, at one point, things will settle and Hungary will become once again an interesting market…”

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