May 24, 2018 / 7:06 AM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 2-BAWAG seeks retail partnerships to increase consumer loans

* Net profit down to 86.5 mln euros from 95.1 mln

* Regulatory charges at 36.7 mln

* Aims to finance consumer loans, housing, cars

* Still sees robust M&A pipeline (Adds CEO quotes, analyst, share, detail)

VIENNA, May 24 (Reuters) - BAWAG Group aims to reach its medium-term growth targets thanks to more takeovers in the German speaking world and new retail partnerships that will strengthen its consumer business, the Austrian bank said on Thursday.

The lender, backed by U.S. financial investor Cerberus , on Tuesday reported a 9 percent drop in its first-quarter profit, mainly because it took 85 percent of the regulatory charges it expects for the year as a whole.

BAWAG, the former trade union bank, has been focusing on bolt-on takeovers in the German speaking region to drive growth for some time.

It agreed six acquisitions over the past two years, and the pipeline for further deals is "pretty robust", Chief Executive Officer Anas Abuzaakouk told Reuters.

To further boost BAWAG's lending business, it will seek new partnerships in the retail sector, the CEO said.

Last week, he agreed to cooperate with electronics chain MediaMarktSaturn Austria from next January and he said he hopes more deals will follow. In particular, BAWAG wants to grow with housing loans and auto financing.

"Retail partnerships will increase our customer base and allow us to grow in the lending market," Abuzaakouk said.

The bank posted a first-quarter profit of 86.5 million euros ($101 million) on revenues of 282 million euros, an increase of 15 percent, which fell short of Morgan Stanley expectations.

BAWAG shares fell 3.2 percent, while the European sector index traded flat.

Operating expenses in the quarter increased 21 percent to 130 million euros. Net fee and commission income was up 49.6 percent to 74.5 million euros from the previous year's period.

BAWAG bought Austrian credit card issuer PayLife and German Suedwestbank and agreed to take over German building society bank Deutscher Ring Bausparkasse last year.

It is also part of a consortium which agreed to buy Germany's HSH Nordbank, once the world's largest ship financier, earlier this year.

The lender still aims to increase its full-year pre-tax profit by more than 5 percent and confirmed its medium-term targets. ($1 = 0.8532 euros) (Reporting by Kirsti Knolle Editing by Keith Weir)

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