May 24, 2018 / 5:55 AM / 4 months ago

Israel's Bank Leumi Q1 profit up, to start buying back shares

JERUSALEM, May 24 (Reuters) - Bank Leumi, Israel’s second-largest lender, reported a smaller-than-expected rise in first-quarter profit, and said it was commencing a share buyback plan.

Leumi said on Thursday it earned 730 million shekels ($204.5 million) in the quarter, up from 622 million a year earlier. It had been forecast to earn 769 million shekels, according to a Reuters poll of analysts.

The bank said it will had completed preparations for a buyback of shares of up to 700 million shekels, and that it will distribute 292 million shekels in a quarterly dividend, equal to 40 percent of net profit.

Leumi plans to buy back its own shares between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, subject to meeting a Tier 1 equity ratio of no less than 10.9 percent.

The bank’s Tier 1 ratio, which measures equity capital as a proportion of total risk-weighted assets, fell to 11.11 percent at the end of March from 11.43 percent at the end of 2017.

$1 = 3.5693 shekels Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch Editing by Steven Scheer

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