VTB Warns of Slower Loan Growth in 2008

VTB Group said Wednesday that it expected slower loan growth and wider trading losses this year after the biggest market rout since 1998.

VTB will further reduce the share of securities in its total assets after selling stocks and sovereign bonds in the first half of the year, chief financial officer Nikolai Tsekhomsky said during a conference call. The bank also reported Wednesday that second-quarter profit more than doubled.

"We are not immune from the problems troubling the global market," Tsekhomsky said. "Still, we believe that the difficulties will not materially affect our strategic growth."

Net income available to shareholders rose to $553 million in the second quarter from $256 million a year earlier on corporate lending and trading gains. First-half net income advanced 41 percent to $666 million as interest income almost doubled, VTB said.

"There are threats," said Leonid Slipchenko, an analyst at UralSib. "The financing risk is still too high. Income is very volatile because of trading, although it's good that the share of securities in total assets dropped."

"Our brand and our relationships with the state give us an advantage in the current market situation," Tsekhomsky said earlier Wednesday.