(Adds CEO quote, lending details, provisions release background)
PRAGUE, May 4 (Reuters) - Czech lender Komercni Banka posted a 41 percent rise in first-quarter net profit, boosted by the sale of its Prague headquarters building, the bank said on Thursday.
Reported attributable net profit rose to 4.1 billion crowns ($167.12 million) while net profit adjusted for the extraordinary gain was up 11 percent to 3.2 billion crowns.
The bank’s earnings were also helped by a small net release of provisions versus a net creation a year ago, along with a 43 percent rise in trading gains in the first quarter as market expectations that the central bank would end an intervention regime keeping the crown weak boosted corporate hedging activity.
This rise compensated for falling net interest income and net fees. Overall net banking income rose 2 percent to 7.8 billion crowns, in line with the average estimate in a Reuters poll.
With the economy growing firmly and inflation back above target, the Czech National Bank (CNB) abandoned its currency regime on April 6.
Komercni Banka Chief Executive Albert Le Dirac‘h said the expectations around the currency regime exit in the first quarter and the huge inflow of foreign investor money it brought “influenced pricing and partly leaked into deposits in the banking system.”
“At the same time, exporters were keen to hedge their future foreign revenues against potential appreciation of the Czech crown. From this perspective, the first quarter was not a usual one,” he said.
With the crown floating freely again, market attention has turned to how soon the central bank may raise interest rates, which have sat near zero since 2012. Analysts see the first rate rise in the first half of 2018.
The low-rate environment has weighed on banks and they have responded by stepping up lending.
Komercni Banka, which is the country’s third biggest bank and majority owned by France’s Societe Generale, raised lending by 8.6 percent year-on-year in the quarter, boosted by both consumer and corporate lending.
Client deposits, excluding repo operations for clients, grew 12.7 percent. ($1 = 24.5330 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Sunil Nair)