* Asset management arm misses targets
* Q4 net profit down 44 pct at 12.7 mln euros
* Shares fall 7.2 pct (Updates with comment from shareholders’ association)
AMSTERDAM, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Dutch discount broker BinckBank has postponed a plan to return excess capital to shareholders after its asset management arm failed to meet targets, it said on Monday, and also warned of potential lawsuits.
BinckBank’s Alex Asset Management business aims to profit from market rises and limit losses in a downturn, but it misread some large movements and underperformed in 2014, prompting the dividend rethink.
“The policy pursued by Alex Asset Management in 2014 led to disappointing results for many customers,” Chairman Vincent Germyns said on Monday.
In a statement of “risks and uncertainties”, the bank also noted the possibility of class action by customers.
The Dutch union for small shareholders, VEB, said it was considering its position after receiving a flood of complaints about Alex Asset Management.
Funds at Alex dropped by more than 9 percent year on year to 1.95 billion euros ($2.21 billion) at the end of 2014 and Binck said it had pushed back its target for 3.5 billion euros by three years to 2018.
“Based on an assessment of its business prospects, BinckBank does not consider it would be prudent to distribute the available capital in excess of 200 million euros at this time,” the bank said, citing European economic weakness as a factor.
ING analysts were caught off guard.
“We are negatively surprised by this decision, especially as Binck positioned itself as a capital-return story last year,” ING’s Albert Ploegh said in a note, though it continues to rate the bank as a “hold”.
Kepler Cheuvreux analysts cut the stock to “hold” from “buy”.
BinckBank shares were down 7.2 percent at 7.18 euros by 1215 GMT.
VEB’s Niels Lemmers said his organisation had received 400 complaints from Alex users and it expected to complete an investigation in March.
The complaints “were really flowing in November, December (as customers checked performance at year-end) and were not happy with the results,” he said. “Many were down more than 20 percent, in a year where most stocks and bonds rose.”
He cautioned it was not certain VEB would try to seek damages on behalf of its members.
Among VEB’s concerns were whether BinckBank promised too much in its advertisements for Alex and whether investors were informed correctly about risks.
BinckBank, which appointed Germyns as acting executive chairman after Koen Beentjes stepped down on Jan. 1, reported fourth-quarter adjusted net profit of 12.7 million euros. That compared with 22.7 million euros a year earlier and was in line with analysts’ expectations.
$1 = 0.8812 euros Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter