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KBC: first-quarter profit beats estimates

( - Belgian banking group KBC beat analysts' forecasts for quarterly profit on Thursday, and made several other major announcements.

KBC said it generated net profit of 430 million euros in the first quarter, down from 556 million euros in the first three months of 2018.

"This is a good result, the group said, considering that we - as usual - recorded the bulk of the bank taxes for the full year in the first quarter."

Indeed, banking taxes amounted to 382 million euros in the first quarter, compared to just 41 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Excluding these taxes, net profit was up 9% year-on-year, thanks to lower costs, and despite higher loan loss impairment charges, KBC said.

KBC also said that it is currently reviewing its governance model, with the aim at simplifing its management level ("top 300") by reducing the number of decision layers.

Moreover, the Belgian bank announced that, by the end of 2019, 65 smaller branches in Flanders will be converted into unmanned branches.

In addition, 51 existing unmanned branches will be closed due to a substantial fall in the number of cash withdrawals.

57% of its customers are now banking via a digital channel alone, it said.

Even so, the shares were down 1.4% after these announcements, underperforming the EURO STOXX Optimised Banks index which was down 0.4%.

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