NICOSIA, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Hellenic Bank, Cyprus' biggest retail lender, posted a net profit of 14.9 million euros (16.9 million U.S. dollars) in the first quarter of 2019, a year-on-year drop of 48 percent from a year ago; and 38 percent from that in Q4, 2018, the lender's CEO Ioannis Matsis said on Friday.
Matsis said the drop in the profit was caused by increased provisions of 20.1 million euros in Q1.
Hellenic's Q1 profit before provisions was 35.9 million euros. Total lending in Q1 reached 177.2 million euros and the non-performing exposures (NPEs) coverage ratio was 55.2 percent.
In the fourth quarter of 2018, the lender generated 24.1 million euros in net profit, 38.5 million euros before impairments.
Matsis said that was the fifth consecutive quarter the bank recorded a profit and included the results for a second quarter of the acquisition of operations of the former Cyprus Cooperative Bank (CCB).
"The acquisition of the CCB operations and the simultaneous de-risking of our balance sheet and business model established Hellenic Bank as the strongest and most viable bank in Cyprus, " Matsis told the annual meeting of shareholders.
The NPEs ratio stood at 26.5 percent of the total loan portfolio, or 32.6 percent when non-performing loans managed by asset management firm APS were taken into consideration.
Matsis also said that Hellenic's liquidity coverage ratio was 536 per cent while its loans to deposits ratio was 42.6 per cent, enabling business expansion.
Matsis did not rule out offloading NPEs to international investors but he added that reducing the bank's stock to under 20 percent did not depend on one sale.
He said reducing NPEs under 20 percent was the equivalent of selling non-performing loans totaling 305 million euros.
Matsis also made a strong warning to lawmakers who are currently discussing amendments to the foreclosures legislation.
He said stronger rules submitted by opposition parties which will make it more difficult for banks to foreclose mortgages secured by the lenders' primary residence would hurt both the banks and the economy.