Bank profit growth predicted to shrink

In the first nine months of 2016, Latvia's banks have posted close to record earnings since the economic crisis. However the profit growth is about to shrink and boutique banks will have to find new ways of making money, say experts.

Bank profits in Latvia were at €374m in the first nine months of this year - up 19% on year, reported LTV's Panorāma Sunday.

A one-off deal with VISA, which bought its shares back from European banks, seems to have greatly inflated the statistics.

"It must be said that in the first half of this year there was a one-time effect from sale of VISA shares. It affected the total earnings. If you don't count this one-time effect, there would practically be a dip in earnings in comparison to last year," said Irina Ivanova, a representative of Latvia's finance watchdog, the Financial and Capital Markets Commission (FKTK).

According to FKTK estimates, the deal with VISA has boosted profits about 20% in this period. However as Latvia has entered the OECD and is now evaluating clients more strictly, fewer non-residents are being served, especially from Russia and CIS countries. This will mean smaller profits for banks and force many boutique banks serving non-residents to look for new niches.

"We have great infrastructure. Half of the banks are oriented towards cooperating with foreign clients. There's this infrastructure, the people, the talent, the knowledge. That's why [we] have to look in both directions - Europe and the East - where this infrastructure is being absorbed, said Guntis Beļavskis, council chairman at the Commercial Banking Association. 

Last year banks posted profits of €415.9m - this was the largest sum in three years. In 2014 banks made €311m and €246.2m in 2013. 

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Economy
Economy