(Adds loan book outlook)
By Carolina Mandl
SAO PAULO, April 26 (Reuters) - Shares in Brazil’s Banco Bradesco SA were down 1.2 percent on Thursday afternoon after the bank said during a conference call its loan book is likely to grow less than 5 percent this year.
Carlos Firetti, Bradesco’s head of investor relations, told analysts that the loan book of Brazil’s second largest private lender is likely to finish 2018 with growth around the low end of the estimated range, between 3 percent and 7 percent.
Bradesco’s loan book shrank 1.3 percent in the first quarter to 486.6 billion reais, mainly because of a contraction in loans to large companies, which represent nearly 65 percent of Bradesco’s loan book.
CEO Octavio de Lazari told journalists the bank was eager to grow its loan book in 2018, especially for individuals. However, he said loans to companies are expected to rebound only by the end of the year, following an October presidential election.
Fewer losses with delinquent loans at Brazil’s Banco Bradesco SA helped the bank beat analysts’ profit estimates and led executives on Thursday to forecast loan-loss provisions at the bottom end of its estimated range by the end of the year.
The Osasco-based bank reported recurring net income, which excludes one-time items, of 5.1 billion reais ($1.46 billion) in the first quarter, up 9.8 percent from a year earlier and beating the Thomson Reuters analyst consensus of 4.9 billion reais.
Amid a gradual recovery in the Brazilian economy, loan-loss provisions dropped more than expected, down 26.3 percent from a year earlier, to 3.892 billion reais.
“The main positive highlight was asset quality,” Credit Suisse’s analysts said in a note to clients.
Bradesco executives said loan-loss provisions may end 2018 at the bottom of the estimated range, between 16 billion reais and 19 billion reais.
“Growing loans and, consequently, the top line remains a concern, but the big improvements in asset quality and the upside from the large employee dismissal program leave us comfortable with the bank’s guidance,” BTG Pactual analysts said in a note to clients.
The 90-day default ratio declined 0.3 percentage point in the quarter, to 4.4 percent and management said there was room for further improvement in coming quarters.
Bradesco’s recurring return on equity rose 0.3 percentage points from a year earlier to 18.6 percent, but fell short of analysts’ average estimate of 20.1 percent. ($1 = 3.4841 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Carolina Mandl; editing by David Gregorio and Chizu Nomiyama)