Preliminary fourth-quarter results from National Bank of Greece
More established European banking names such as ING
Group net income at NBG increased 36% in the fourth quarter on strong retail credit operations, beating the Citigroup analyst estimates by 10% at 199 million euros (1 euro is currently equal to $1.31). Net interest margins expanded to 3.76% from 3.5%.
Loan growth was high throughout NBG's operations in Greece, Turkey, and the Southeast Europe region. NBG subsidiary Finansbank in Turkey scored the highest, with 76% growth in retail loans, similar increases in small-business and corporate lending, and mortgage growth of 122%. Equally important, more than 100 new branches opened in 2006 for a total of 309 Finansbank branches now in operation.
"Finansbank's results were particularly encouraging. Its profitability ... confirmed our expectations, exceeding 156 million euros," said Chief Executive Takis Arapoglou in a statement.
Southeast Europe lending also sparkled with 44% growth. NBG opened 95 new branches in the region, for a current total of 352 in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania. Even domestic Greek lending grew 20%, up from 17% growth in the third quarter.
What do you have to pay for NBG's growth? Not a lot in P/E terms. The trailing P/E is comfortably less than 20, with 45% earnings-per-share growth expected in 2007 and a forward P/E of 13. Growth is slated to continue in 2008; Citigroup shows estimated earnings that give a 2008 forward P/E of less than 10, at today's prices.
Citigroup raised its price target for NBG to 50 euros ($12.50 for the American Depositary Receipts), leaving more than 20% upside from current price levels.
The initial NBG shares I bought near $9 late last year are now a staple holding in my long-term portfolio. Strong growth at low prices is a good margin of safety for value investors.
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Fool contributor Dale Baker, a private-client portfolio manager and former U.S. diplomat with extensive experience in Europe and Africa, owns shares in NBG. He welcomes your questions and comments at email@example.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.