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AMSTERDAM: Dutch bank ABN AMRO beat its own projections yesterday with a 31 per cent rise in 2003 net profit and its chief raised the possibility of a merger after announcing the group had scrapped a takeover defence.

Chief Executive Rijkman Groenink, who has overseen a billion-euro restructuring that included closing non-core units and slashing 10,000 jobs worldwide to cope with hard times, said earnings would grow again this year.

Cost control, better stock markets and lower bad-debt provisions for the year helped the bank's bottom line and its wholesale investment banking and brokerage unit to return strongly to profit.

The Netherlands' biggest bank posted a record 2003 net profit of 3.161 billion euros (US$3.92 billion) from 2.207 billion euros (US$2.82 billion) previously. ABN AMRO had forecast net profit growth of 25 per cent.

Analysts had expected a 28 per cent rise. "ABN AMRO again managed to post very strong and better-than-expected results," said Bank Oyens & Van Eeghen analyst Ivo Geijsen, who has a "buy" on the stock.

The bank's wholesale division made a net profit of 387 million euros (US$495.36 million) compared with a 294 million euro (US$376.32 million) loss in 2002 when the stock-market downturn was at its worst.

(China Daily 02/05/2004 page12)


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