BNP Paribas reports forecast-beating profit rise

Litigation costs to exceed provisions at BNP Paribas: CFO

BNP Paribas on Wednesday posted a forecast-beating 5.2 percent rise in net profit for the first quarter.

Net profit came in at 1.668 billion euros ($2.302 billion) in the first quarter of this year, beating analysts' expectations of 1.39 billion euros. It warned of larger than expected litigation fees however. Shares in the group were down 2.7 percent in early trade.

BNP took a $1.1 billion litigation provision in February related to a review of U.S. dollar payments involving parties subject to U.S. economic sanctions.

Read MoreBNP Paribas profit misses, hit by legal provision

Logo of French bank BNP Paribas.
MICHEL GANGNE | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. authorities have already imposed big fines on other banks for breaching sanctions against U.S. dollar payments involving Iran and other countries.

France's largest lender by assets said a "high degree" of uncertainty existed surrounding the fines that U.S. authorities could impose on the bank.

Read MoreBanking union delay a 'shackle' on growth: BNP Paribas

"There is the possibility that the amount of the fines could be far in excess of the amount of the provision," the bank said in a statement, following discussions that took place in the first quarter of this year concerning U.S. dollar payments.

The bank also took a 100 million euro provision on Eastern Europe, which chief financial officer of the bank Lars Machenil said was a "prudent" decision.

The provision was taken out as a result of the "exceptional situation" in Eastern Europe the bank said, amid the latest developments in Ukraine. On Tuesday resulted the EU imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 15 Russian officials and politicians.

"This is not a specific provision, so it is more for uncertainty. Not knowing what embargoes or what the economic evolution could be, so we just took that provision as a precaution," Machenil told CNBC.

Results 'bode well' for future of BNP Paribas: CFO

In the firm's investment banking arm, fixed income revenues were down 21.7 percent due to weak activity in the rates and foreign exchange business.

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The Paris-based bank said domestic markets grew by 5 percent compared to the same period last year, with growth in France, Belgium and Germany, but Italy would remain a challenging environment this year.

"2014 will remain a difficult year for our Italian operations. It is a year where we continue to adapt the bank to the economic situation in Italy, which is at the end of one of its longest recessions, so that will keep us busy for 2014," said Machenil.

The group said its balance sheet was "rock-solid" and its Basel common equity Tier 1 ratio 3 was at 10.6 percent, with 264 billion euros available in immediate liquidity reserves.