Israel’s Bank Leumi second-quarter profit beats estimates

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s second-largest lender Bank Leumi reported a larger-than-expected rise in second-quarter net profit on Tuesday and said it would purchase more shares to complete its buyback programme.

Leumi earned 903 million shekels ($244 million) in the quarter, up from 876 million a year earlier and above a forecast of 843 million shekels in a Reuters poll of analysts.

The bank in March approved the purchase of up to 700 million shekels worth of its shares. It has so far bought shares worth 303 million shekels and said it would spend an additional 397 million shekels.

Leumi also declared a quarterly dividend of 361 million shekels, representing 40 percent of net income.

Higher-than-expected net interest income, which rose to 2.4 billion shekels from 2.2 billion in the April to June period, was driven by the quarter’s positive consumer price index, to which many interest rates are linked, Barclays analyst Tavy Rosner said.

Barclays said Leumi was its top pick among Israeli banks.

“We see the bank returning to accelerated credit growth alongside ongoing streamlining measures,” Rosner said in a note to clients.

Leumi recovered 14 million shekels from loans previously written off, versus a credit loss expense of 42 million a year earlier.

The bank’s Tier 1 ratio, which measures equity capital as a proportion of total risk-weighted assets, was 11.17 percent at the end of June, down from 11.43 percent at the end of 2017.

($1 = 3.6939 shekels)

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