AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch bank ABN Amro on Wednesday posted fourth-quarter net profit way below analysts' expectations as loan impairments jumped.
Net profit plunged 42 percent to 316 million euros (277 million pounds) from 542 million euros a year earlier. This compares with an average expectation of 446 million euros in a Reuters poll of analysts.
"Net profit was impacted by elevated loan impairments in specific sectors," Chief Executive Kees van Dijkhuizen said.
Loan impairments soarded to 208 million euros from 34 million a year earlier, as shipping, oil services, jewellery and some other sectors continued to struggle despite a strong recovery in the Dutch economy and rising oil prices.
ABN Amro last year said it would limit trade and commodity finance operations in the offshore energy, diamond and shipping sectors, to improve profitability.
Net profit was also dented by 85 million euros in extra costs for the scrutiny of clients, as the bank stepped up its fight against money laundering and other criminal activities.
This followed a record $900 million fine paid by fellow Dutch bank ING Groep NV in September for failing to spot criminal activities financed through its accounts for years.
Outside the Netherlands, Denmark's largest bank - Danske - is involved in a money laundering scandal in Estonia, and Germany's biggest, Deutsche Bank, also faces money laundering allegations.
"We must remain vigilant in detecting financial crime," van Dijkhuizen said, adding, "We are raising the bar even further to strengthen and enhance our customer due-diligence activities, also as regulatory requirements and scrutiny are intensifying."
The core capital adequacy ratio was 18.4 percent at the end of December, compared with 18.6 percent three months earlier and near the upper end of the 17.5 percent-18.5 percent range set for 2018, the bank said.
Dividend over 2018 was set at 1.45 euros per share, increasing the pay-out ratio to 62 percent of net income from 50 percent a year earlier.
(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)