Netherlands' SNS bank reports losses on commercial real estate after nationalization

AMSTERDAM – The Netherlands’ SNS bank has reported large losses for 2012 and says it expects more in 2013, as it gave its first public accounting since being nationalized in February.

The net loss for 2012 was 972 million euros ($1.27 billion), including losses of 813 million euros on its commercial real estate financing portfolio, compared with a profit of 114 million euros in 2011.

The Dutch real estate market has seen a slow but steady decline since the financial crisis in 2008, with the housing market down around 20 per cent and commercial real estate off as much as 50 per cent in some areas.

The company said Thursday it has written another 1.8 billion euros off the value of its real estate operations in the first quarter, after being forced to do so by the state.

“We feel that going forward modesty is a key word for us,” the bank said in an earnings report and review of its turbulent past half-year.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s nationalization of SNS wiped out the bank’s shareholders and junior debt holders, forcing them to take losses of around 1 billion euros. Shortly afterward, as head of eurozone finance ministers’ meetings, he oversaw the imposition of similar terms in the bailout of Cyprus, which forced losses on uninsured bank depositors.

After nationalization, the Dutch state injected 2.2 billion euros into SNS to bring the bank’s capital reserves in line with international rules.

SNS said it is not yet clear what concessions the European Commission will demand for the state aid it has received, which could otherwise give it an unfair competitive advantage. As part of its bailout, its commercial property financing division is being hived off and placed under separate management.

Of the Netherlands’ three other large banks, ABN Amro was nationalized at the start of the crisis and is still state-run. ING received a bailout it still has not fully repaid, and it is selling assets and splitting its banking and insurance operations into separate companies. Rabobank, a co-operative bank, has so far managed without state aid, though as the country’s largest seller of residential mortgages its profits have suffered.

On Wednesday, Rabobank said the Dutch housing market is at or near a bottom, though property prices are still high by most measurements.

SNS’s new CEO, Gerard van Olphen, said Thursday the bank’s core operations are currently profitable. But SNS said it is feeling the impact of the still-weak real estate market and an ongoing recession in the Netherlands, and it is taking more provisions against bad loans.