Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Subprime hit for Agricole

(FT) Crédit Agricole, France’s largest retail bank, is set to become the country’s biggest loser so far from the US subprime crisis when it announces an additional writedown to the €2.5bn ($3.7bn) already disclosed.

France’s third-largest bank by market value would not comment on Tuesday, but it is believed to be facing further losses due to its exposure to US monolines, or bond insurers.

It could announce a writedown of between €650m-€900m on March 5 when it presents its full-year results.

The bank’s Calyon investment banking business is thought to have suffered a hit from its exposure to the Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, the US bond insurer downgraded last week by Moody’s.

In December, the bank revealed a €2.5bn pre-tax writedown partly in response to the downgrading of monolines which guaranteed some of Crédit Agricole’s collaterised debt obligations.

A combination of the two writedowns would put the bank ahead of Société Générale, which has disclosed €2.6bn of losses due to the problems in the credit market ahead of its results on Thursday.

BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank, has so far disclosed €589m of writedowns and €309m of bad loan provisions.

It is on Wednesday expected to confirm record profits of €7.8bn for 2007.

Shares in Crédit Agricole fell by as much as 4.6 per cent on Tuesday, but later recovered most of its losses in a generally jittery day for financial stocks.

Meanwhile, SocGen’s special committee of independent directors, set up in the aftermath of the rogue trading scandal which has cost the bank €4.9bn, is expected to make a statement on Wednesday on the progress of an independent inquiry into the trading schemes of Jérôme Kerviel, the trader blamed for the losses, and how it was allowed to continue undetected.

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