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Handelsbanken Q4 net profit $541 million

HandelsbankenSvenska Handelsbanken AB said that fourth-quarter net profit fell but was ahead of market expectations amid narrowing loan losses as the bank proposed a higher annual dividend.

Handelsbanken, one week after Swedish rivals Nordea and Swedbank said their fourth-quarter earnings were pressured by slow lending growth, said it made a net profit of 3.53 billion kronor ($541 million) in the three months to the end of December. That's down from 4.28 billion kronor a year earlier when the result was boosted by tax gains.

The bank proposed a total dividend a share of 16.50 kronor for 2013, with 11.50 kronor a share in ordinary dividend, up from 10.75 kronor a year earlier. Handelsbanken will determine new capital goals once Sweden's regulators have finalized upcoming rules for banks, it said.

Handelsbanken has been able to build massive capital buffers over the past few years, helped by steady earnings growth and solid economic conditions in its Nordic home markets. A gradual expansion into the U.K. banking market has also boosted its top-line growth in recent quarters.

The bank's net interest income in the fourth quarter rose to 6.77 billion kronor from 6.48 billion kronor, marginally missing expectations of 6.79 billion kronor. Loan losses narrowed to 322 million kronor from 395 million kronor against expectations of 381 million kronor.


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