BNP beats forecasts with 34 per cent fall in earnings

BNP Paribas, the bank that signalled the severity of the financial turmoil nearly a year ago, rode out the crisis in the second quarter with profit ahead of expectations.

France's biggest listed bank reported a 34 per cent fall in second quarter net profit to €1.51bn (£1.2bn) yesterday after taking a charge of €542m on counterparty risks for monoline debt insurers hit by the credit crunch.

On 9 August last year, the day now seen as the start of the credit crunch, BNP Paribas froze three investment funds and alerted the market to a complete drying up of liquidity in parts of the US securitisation market. The news caused the money markets to seize up, prompting the European Central Bank and other central banks to start injecting liquidity into the system.

Since then, the French bank has ridden out the tough market conditions better than many of its rivals. It has written down about €2.6bn so far from the credit crunch, about half the hit suffered by its rival Société Générale.

BNP Paribas has also avoided the recent round of capital raisings by rivals, including its three big French competitors. The chief executive, Baudouin Prot, said the bank's capital buffer was "completely adequate" and that its was under no pressure to raise fresh equity.

The bank bought Bank of America's prime brokerage business earlier this year. Mr Prot said he would look at making further small acquisitions. BNP Paribas shares rose 5.2 per cent to €65.06.