VTB Says 2007 Profit Rose 30%

VTB Group, the country's second-largest bank, said Thursday that 2007 profit climbed a more-than-estimated 30 percent as lending doubled.

Net income climbed to $1.48 billion, or 0.024 cents a share, from $1.14 billion, or 0.022 cents the previous year, the state-run bank said in a statement. That exceeded the $1.4 billion median estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

"We were able to achieve our main goal of growing faster than the market," chief executive Andrei Kostin told reporters. Total assets jumped 77 percent to $92.6 billion, outpacing the 55 percent Russian average, he said.

VTB, which raised $8 billion in last year's biggest IPO, has used the global credit crunch to its advantage in the fourth quarter, increasing lending to Russian companies that can no longer borrow abroad, said Leonid Slipchenko, banking analyst at UralSib. Net lending doubled last year to $58.5 billion, while retail lending tripled to $7.68 billion.

VTB plans to borrow around $5 billion abroad this year to help it expand in the former Soviet Union, Kostin said in an interview. The bank is considering selling bonds and borrowing from other banks, he said.

The bank will use "a window of opportunity" to borrow when it arises, chief financial officer Nikolai Tsekhomsky told reporters Thursday. Still, VTB does not want to "send a signal to the market that we are ready to borrow at any price."