Credit Agricole takes $5 billion hit as banks struggle to move on

Fri Feb 1, 2013 2:41pm EST
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By Christian Plumb and Matthias Blamont

PARIS (Reuters) - Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA: Quote), France's No. 3 bank, announced a further 3.8 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in charges on Friday as banks struggle to move on from ill-timed deals before the 2008 financial crisis.

The charges come less than three months after Credit Agricole unveiled 3.6 billion euros of writedowns with its third-quarter results and will plunge it to the largest annual loss since it went public in 2001.

They also come a day after Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE: Quote), Germany's biggest bank, announced almost $4 billion of charges.

Banks across the world are cutting costs and selling off, or writing down, assets in a bid to meet tougher regulations aimed at preventing a repeat of the 2008 crisis.

The European Union's markets watchdog said last month it had told companies and their accountants they would be named publicly if they failed to properly write down goodwill impairments in their latest results.

Credit Agricole shares are up 15 percent so far this year, versus an 8.5 percent gain for the European banking sector, reflecting hopes its previous clean ups, such as shedding troubled Greek unit Emporiki, would allow it to turn a corner.

Credit Agricole later on Friday said it had completed the sale of Emporiki to Alpha Bank and the deal would have a "slightly positive" impact on its 2012 fourth-quarter results.

Like other banks, Credit Agricole has been selling assets and streamlining its business to meet stricter regulations after the 2008 financial crisis. Last November, it took a 1.96-billion euro-writedown on the sale of Emporiki bank.   Continued...

Passers-by walk in front of a branch of French bank Credit Agricole in Marseille February 1, 2013. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier