VILNIUS - Aggregate profits of Lithuania's commercial banks soared 63.4 percent in 2003, reaching 239.9 million litas (69.5 million euros), preliminary data released by the Central Bank of Lithuania on Jan. 16 showed.
"The banks' earnings have not reached such levels ever. As far as I remember, they have not posted such growth rates before either," Reinoldijus Sarkinas, the central bank governor, said in a news conference.
He added that 2003 saw strong growth both in assets and in loans and deposits.
"One of the key factors behind the growth in profits last year was the recovery of nearly 64 million litas in loans that had been considered irrecoverable, which perhaps causes some concern," he added.
Sarkinas said the banks' interest income grew by a mere 9 million litas, or 2 percent, in 2003.
All 10 domestic banks and a foreign bank branch operated profitably in 2003, recording 241.4 million litas in combined profits.
Two foreign bank branches - Kredyt Bank and Nordea Bank Finland - ended the year in the red, posting 1.5 million litas in aggregate losses.
Vilniaus Bankas, the country's largest commercial bank by assets, reported the highest profit among financial institutions for 2003, at 137.2 million litas. Hansabankas came in second with a profit of 61 million litas, and Nord/LB Lietuva finished with a profit of 12.7 million litas.
The honor of having the largest aggregate profit, however, goes to Latvia's banks. The country's 23 financial institutions earned a total of 71.5 million lats (105.4 million euros) in 2003, a 26.8 increase year-on-year.