Sweden’s Handelsbanken reports plunging profits

Handelsbanken, one of Sweden's largest banks, has reported a fall in net profit of 29 percent for the fourth quarter.

The decline was the result of increased loan losses, which rose to 696 million kronor ($85 million) from 166 million kronor the year before, and a one-off gain in 2007 which boosted the comparative figure.

Net profit fell to 4.56 billion kronor from 6.40 billion kronor a year ago, when profit included a 4.08 billion kronor gain from the sale of life insurance and pension group SPP.

The bank, Sweden’s second-biggest by capitalisation, has a more defensive profile than other big banks in Sweden after having mostly staying out of the recession-hit Baltic region.

Large specific exposures to risk-venture capitalists and Swedish and British industrial and manufacturing companies have caused significant losses in the past.

It also has a 174 million kronor exposure to collapsed US investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Shares in the company shot up, rising 9.49 percent to 129.75 kronor on the Stockholm stock exchange in early trade.