BAWAG ups targets, dividend after estimate-beating 2018 earnings

* 2018 pre-tax profit up 14 percent

* Proposes dividend of 2.18 eur/shr

* 2020 pre-tax profit seen at over 640 mln eur (Adds detail, CEO's comment)

VIENNA, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Austrian bank BAWAG Group lifted its 2020 profit target and proposed a higher-than expected dividend for 2018 after it posted an estimate-beating 14 percent increase in full-year pre-tax profit.

Profit before tax came in at 573 million euros ($647 million), largely driven by higher revenues and lower risk costs, the group said on Tuesday. Analysts had expected 561 million euros, Refinitiv Eikon data shows.

BAWAG said it would propose a dividend of 2.18 euros per share for 2018 after 0.58 euros per share the previous year. This is higher than the 2.16 euros analysts had expected.

"We outperformed all of our targets, focused on the things we control, and delivered on our promise of being good stewards of capital all while continuing to shape the BAWAG Group of tomorrow," Chief Executive Anas Abuzaakouk said in a statement.

The former trade union bank, which is backed by U.S. private equity group Cerberus Capital Management, said net interest income was up 6 percent at 840.5 million euros. Net fee and commission income grew 30.4 percent to 282.8 million euros.

The lender has been focusing on bolt-on takeovers and retail-partnerships that strengthen its consumer lending business in the German speaking region to drive growth.

It cooperates with wholesaler Metro Austria, electronics chain MediaMarktSaturn Austria and has bought two companies specialised in factoring for the dental sector in Germany and Switzerland.

The group said it expected to reach a pre-tax profit of more than 600 million euros this year, moving its 2020 forecast one year forward. It sees the 2020 figure now at more than 640 million euros.

($1 = 0.8853 euros) (Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; editing by Thomas Seythal and Subhranshu Sahu)

2019-02-19 09:03:04

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