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UPDATE 1-Eurobank quarterly earnings rise, eyes single-digit bad loan ratio this year

(Adds details, CEO comment)

ATHENS, May 27 (Reuters) - Eurobank, one of Greece’s four largest lenders, grew net profit in the first quarter compared to the same period a year earlier thanks to lower operating costs and higher fee and commission income, it said on Thursday.

The bank, which is 2.4% owned by the country’s HFSF bank rescue fund, reported net profit of 70 million euros ($85.4 million) versus 57 million in the same period a year earlier.

Eurobank’s ratio of non-performing exposures (NPEs), which include non-performing loans and other credit likely to turn bad, dropped to 14.2% of its loan book at the end of March from 28.9% at the end of the first quarter of 2020.

“As the moratorium period on loan repayments has ended, one positive development is the lower-than-expected formation of new NPEs,” Eurobank’s CEO Fokion Karavias said in a statement.

Fee and commission income grew 6.9% year-on-year in the quarter to 99 million euros, offsetting a drop in net interest income.

Eurobank, with operations in Bulgaria and Cyprus, said international business was profitable, contributing net earnings of 32 million euros.

The bank’s plan to securitise about 3.3 billion euros of NPEs, dubbed “project Mexico”, will apply to join the government’s “Hercules II” bad loan reduction scheme in the coming weeks.

Eurobank is aiming at a single-digit NPE ratio by the end of this year.

$1 = 0.8194 euros Reporting by George Georgiopoulos. Editing by Mark Potter

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