French bank Credit Agricole SA aims to return to profit in 2013 after two years of losses and pay shareholders a dividend, chief executive Jean-Marie Sander said Thursday.
Speaking at the annual shareholders meeting, Sander acknowledged that 2012 was a difficult year, but the hard decisions Credit Agricole has taken “will allow the group to recover its profitability during the 2013 financial year.”
The bank did not pay a dividend for last year, “but 2013 will see the return, I am convinced, of a normal situation concerning the payment of a dividend,” he added.
Earlier this month Credit Agricole SA said it raised net profit by more than half in the first quarter after having cleaned up its balance sheet at the end of last year.
In the first three months of the year, the bank, which is the quoted arm of the Credit Agricole holding group, raised net profit by 50.7 percent to 469 million euros ($605 million).
Chifflet indicated the bank had two priorities for 2013, improving its financial ratios and preparing a new medium-term plan that will be presented in the autumn.
The bank announced at the beginning of the year plans to achieve savings of 650 million euros by 2016.
Chifflet declined to speculate about the size of any potential job cuts, saying only that talks were under way with unions.
With pressure mounting from governments against tax evasion, executives said the Credit Agricole Private Banking would not operate in jurisdictions considered tax havens by France and the OECD, with the Bahamas office representing the branch in Switzerland in the process of being closed.
Nevertheless it will continue operating in offshore centres such as Luxembourg, Monaco and Singapore, but “in strict compliance with laws and regulations” said corporate secretary Joseph d’Auzay.
“We don’t help in any way clients who seek to get around tax laws,” he added.