Israel’s First International Bank quarter four profit up less than expected

First International Bank of Israel, the country’s fifth-largest bank by assets, reported on Wednesday a smaller-than-expected rise in quarterly profit, as higher expenses offset a gain in financing income.

FIBI posted fourth-quarter net profit of 165 million shekels ($45.7 million), up from 158 million a year earlier but below a forecast of 191 million shekels in a Reuters poll.

Net interest income grew to 653 million shekels from 592 million, while credit loss expenses rose to 36 million shekels from 12 million. Operating expenses gained to 726 million shekels from 663 million led by salaries and expenses from its merger with smaller rival Otzar Hachayal.

FIBI declared a dividend of 105 million shekels, equal to 50 percent of net profit.

“The costs of the merger, as well as the cost of the other steps we have taken, such as early retirement plans, are included in the expenses of 2018, while the fruit of these actions will be reflected in the coming years,” said CEO Smadar Barber-Tsadik.

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