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Credit Agricole's third-quarter profits fall as bank ramps up M&A to boost growth

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Credit Agricole's third-quarter profits fall as bank ramps up M&A to boost growth

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By Maya Nikolaeva and Matthieu Protard PARIS (Reuters) – Credit Agricole <CAGR.PA> reported a fall in third-quarter profits as its markets trading and French retail banking arms struggled. France’s second-biggest listed bank continued to narrow its business focus over the quarter and tried to woo investors with more acquisitions in Italy – one of its key markets along with France – while selling most of its holding in non-strategic assets in Egypt. Its reported net income came in at 1.07 billion euros (942.34 million pounds), compared to analysts’ forecasts for 1.03 billion euros, while revenues were below expectations at 4.58 billion versus a forecast for 4.76 billion according to a Reuters poll. Financial market trading was a dark spot for the bank, as has been the case with many of its rivals, with revenue from capital markets dropping 28 percent compared with a year ago, when it was boosted by higher market activity due to Brexit. Underlying revenue at its French bank LCL fell 3.4 percent, weighed down by a fall in home loans renegotiation fees and the impact of previous renegotiations on its interest margin. The French bank, which owns a majority stake in fund management firm Amundi <AMUN.PA>, has been on an acquisition spree in the asset and wealth management sectors, as it seeks to bolster returns after years of slimming down its overall balance sheet to adapt to tougher European capital requirements. It has also overcome a complex revamp of shareholding ties with its cooperative parent banks with a promise of a stronger capital base, helping lift its share price to eclipse Societe Generale <SOGN.PA> as France’s second-biggest bank by market capitalization.

NO INTEREST IN COMMERZBANK As part of its efforts to concentrate on key markets in France and Italy, it recently announced the acquisition of three small banks in Italy and a majority holding in Banca Leonardo. Credit Agricole said on Wednesday that the acquisitions, which are not yet finalised, would have a negative impact of 15 basis points for its key capital ration. However, it denied any plans for big mergers over the short period of time. “We do not believe in a European banking consolidation in the short term…all regulations are against it,” chief executive Philippe Brassac told journalists. Brassac was previously quoted as saying that Agricole would have expressed interest in Commerzbank <CBKG.DE> if the German lender were to be up for sale. “We have no plans to acquire capital or a portion of Commerzbank’s capital. The priority is organic growth.” (Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva and Matthieu Protard; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)
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