Credit Agricole forecast the global financial crisis will last until late 2010, as France's biggest retail bank posted a fourth-quarter loss that was worse than analysts had forecast.
"We expect that the crisis will not end until the second part of 2010," Chief Executive Georges Pauget told reporters.
Credit Agricole reported a net loss of €309 million (Dh1.4 billion). Its earnings were hit by a €1.6bn bad risk charge on its loss-making Greek bank Emporiki and on its investment banking operation, which is currently in the process of being scaled down.
While the loss was narrower than last year's fourth-quarter net loss of €857m, it came in at the bottom end of analysts' forecasts, some of which had predicted that Agricole could report a fourth-quarter profit.
Credit Agricole proposed cutting its 2008 dividend to €0.45 a share from €1.20 last year.
"The fourth quarter result is worse than forecast. The cost of risk has gone up a lot," said Sal Oppenheim analyst Eric Vanpoucke.
Agricole is the last major French bank to report 2008 earnings, with leading banks around the world still bearing the scars of the financial crisis which began as US home-owners defaulted on their loans.
BNP Paribas, France's biggest bank by market capitalisation, reported a fourth quarter net loss of €1.37bn last month while Société Généralé posted a net profit of €87m.
Agricole shares closed down 1.9 per cent at €7.09 on Tuesday. The stock has fallen around 11 per cent since the start of 2009, compared to a 34 per cent fall in the DJ Stoxx European bank sector.
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