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Nordea raises dividend, dismisses Russian risks

The chief executive of Nordea bank, which hiked its dividend Wednesday, told CNBC that the Nordic lender has nothing to fear from Russia.

"We have a very sound business in Russia...the actual lending portfolio in Russia is healthy," Christian Clausen told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box" Wednesday.

Although Nordea's loan loss provisions were "going up a little," Clausen said Nordea had performed a stress test among its customers in Russia which showed that it had "a very strong credit quality in Russia."

"So we're quite confident with our direct credit risk but of course what is uncertain is the geopolitical risk towards Russia but the lending portfolio as such, is healthy," he said.

He admitted that Nordea was reducing its Russia exposure "gradually for all sorts of reasons" but Nordea "was quite confident about our actual risks in Russia."

The Nordic region's biggest bank by market value reported underlying profit in line with expectations in the fourth quarter on Wednesday and raised its dividend.

Nordea Bank branch in Helsinki, Finland
Tomi Setala | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Nordea Bank branch in Helsinki, Finland

The bank, flush with cash after years of building capital buffers, raised its proposed dividend to 0.62 euro per share, up from 0.43 euro last year and higher than expected 0.57 euro per share.

Speaking to CNBC from Stockholm, Clausen said the company had room to maneuver on its dividend due to the company's performance -- and it could increase further in 2016.

"We are delivering really well on our plans, we are growing our top line, we're reducing costs, becoming more capital efficient so the operating profit is up...so there is room to pay out this dividend which we have been guiding for, for some time now."

"When we are in the situation when we have do excess capital, and we are building a lot of capital every year, then it is obvious that we will pay it out to shareholders," he said.

Operating profit for the period was 1.16 billion euros, in line with a mean forecast of 1.15 billion in a Reuters poll of analysts and up from a year-ago profit of 1.01 billion.

Clausen defended the bank's lending portfolio in Russia and exposure to risks in the country, saying that despite geopolitical tensions, he was confident that the bank had


Reuters contributed to this report.