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France's Credit Agricole posts record loss in 2012

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

French bank Credit Agricole said Wednesday it posted a record 6.47 billion euro ($8.7 billion) loss for 2012 after booking a massive fourth quarter charge but was now "turning the page".

The bank said it would be launching a three-year strategic plan aimed at saving 650 million euros.

In the fourth quarter alone, the bank posted a loss of 3.98 billion euros, mostly due to exceptional items.

Part of the loss, 838 million euros, was due to Credit Agricole's exit from its Greek bank Emporiki.

It also booked 2.67 billion euros in losses in writing down the value of its assets and an 837 million charge for the re-evaluation of the value of its debt.

"2012 was a year of transformation and streamlining. We are turning the page and we will develop this year a new medium-term plan," the bank's chief executive Jean-Paul Chifflet said in the statement.

"It will show that we are going forward on a solid foundation."

Traders seemed confident that the worst was behind the bank and shares in Credit Agricole rallied 3.89 percent to 7.61 euros on a Paris stock market down by 0.69 percent at close.

Stripping out exceptional items, the banking group's fourth quarter earnings rose by 10 percent from the same period in 2011 to 548 million euros.

For 2012 as a whole it put net earnings before exceptional items at 3.0 billion euros.

It said its retail banks generated 3.5 billion euros in profit.

Credit Agricole's management said that it would propose not paying a dividend for 2012, following on from 2011 when it also made no payout to shareholders after suffering a loss of 1.47 billion euros.

The bank did not disclose how many jobs may be cut as part of the new plan to generate 650 million euros in savings, saying it would provide details later.

Last year it shed 2,300 jobs at its investment and consumer finance units as part of a previous savings plan.

The bank had been hoping to write off its loss on selling Emporiki against its taxes, but French tax authorities refused.

This increased the loss from 706 million euros to 838 million euros, said finance director Bernard Delpit.

"Our presence in that county cost us dearly," commented Chifflet.

However Credit Agricole's Greek acquisition wasn't the only costly adventure. Like many banks it bought many assets in the early 2000s when prices were high.

It booked 2.67 billion euros in charges to revalue those assets in line with their current market value.

Other charges also brought the bank's accounts in line with current market conditions.

"We have turned the page and profoundly transformed the group," said Chifflet.

The bank's core capital ratio was 9.3 percent according to the new Basel III rules, and it said it would increase that to 10 percent at the end of 2013.

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CREDIT AGRICOLE SA

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