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SocGen sees 2009 to remain difficult

FRENCH bank Societe Generale SA said in a statement yesterday that it sees 2009 to remain challenging after a turbulent fourth quarter in which it nonetheless posted a profit thanks to earnings in retail banking.

SocGen posted net profit of 87 million euros (US$109.92 million) in the fourth quarter, versus a 3.35-billion-euro loss in the same period of 2007, when it booked 4.9 billion euros in losses.

"The environment will probably remain challenging in 2009," SocGen said.

During the fourth quarter, SocGen said net profit at its French retail bank held up well, down just 1.3 percent to 311 million euros.

It posted a net loss of 76 million euros in its international banking division after taking a 300-million-euro goodwill writedown on its Russian operations, where it is the majority shareholder of Rosbank. That compares with a profit of 202 million euros a year earlier.

Russia is grappling with its worst financial crisis in a decade, and Moody's Investors Service said on Tuesday it could cut ratings on Western banks with exposure in Eastern Europe.

The investment banking unit posted a 56-million-euro net profit against a 3.92-billion-euro loss in the same quarter of 2007, when it made exceptional losses from closing unauthorized positions of ex-trader Jerome Kerviel.


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