UPDATE 1-Credit Agricole’s Q4 profits rise more than expected, meets targets a year early

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* Q4 profits beat forecasts

* Met profit goals set for 2019 year ahead of target

* Credit Agricole to set new targets in June

* BNP Paribas, SocGen cut targets after weak performance (Adds comments from CEO, CFO and details)

By Inti Landauro and Matthieu Protard

PARIS, Feb 14 (Reuters) – French bank Credit Agricole booked a higher than expected net profit in the fourth quarter of last year and met its profit goals set for 2019 a year ahead of target.

Credit Agricole’s stronger than expected performance contrasted with its two French rivals BNP Paribas and Societe Generale which both lowered their targets after adverse markets hit their bottom lines in late 2018.

The bank’s fourth quarter net profit more than doubled to 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) up from 387 million euros in the same period a year earlier, when it had to book almost 400 million in charges related to exceptional taxes.

Analysts polled by Infront Data expected a 795 million profit during the quarter.

“The strong growth of underlying net income was achieved despite a much less favourable environment,” said the bank’s Chief Executive Philippe Brassac.

Credit Agricole surpassed targets set three years ago for 2019 on profitability and revenue growth. The bank’s revenue grew by an average 4.3 percent a year in 2016-2018, while return on tangible equity rose to 12.7 percent. The bank will issue new targets for the period 2019-2022 in June.

Most big European banks are struggling to find new profit sources since years of rock-bottom interest rates have limited returns in retail banking, while reinforced corporate and investment banking businesses made them vulnerable to market volatility.

Credit Agricole’s market activities also suffered from the market downturn in late 2018, but the bank did not make any loss, unlike some of its rivals, said CFO Jerome Grivet.

All the bank’s other businesses like retail banking in France or abroad, consumer lending or insurance performed well and more than offset the negative impact from financial markets.

Credit Agricole raised its dividend by 9.5 percent to 0.69 euro per share, while rivals had either kept it unchanged or offered to pay part of it in shares to protect cash.

$1 = 0.8870 euros
Reporting by Inti Landauro and Matthieu Protard;
Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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