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Credit Agricole Posts Loss; No Takeover Plans

Credit Agricole, France's biggest retail bank, posted a fourth-quarter loss on Wednesday
as it booked large writedowns due to the global credit crunch and said it was not planning any major acquisitions.

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AP

Credit Agricole made a bigger-than-expected net loss of 857 million euros ($1.30 billion), with earnings hit by a 3.3 billion euro writedown at its Calyon investment banking arm. A year earlier, the bank had made net profit of just over 1 billion euros.

Eighteen analysts polled by Reuters had given an average net loss forecast of 627 million euros.

Credit Agricole, which analysts have speculated might be interested in weakened French rival Societe Generale, said it was not considering major acquisitions.

Agricole is also tussling with Spanish businessman Jaime Botin to gain influence over Spanish bank Bankinter.

"We have built a solid model. With its sound capital base, the group will make organic growth its priority and it is not considering any significant new acquisitions," Agricole Chairman Rene Carron said in a statement.

The credit crisis, which has been caused by writedowns on U.S. subprime mortgages, has triggered losses at many of the world's top banks.

In February, SocGen reported a record fourth-quarter net loss of 3.35 billion euros.

SocGen booked a total of 2.9 billion euros in writedowns and its earnings were also hit by 4.9 billion euros of trading losses which SocGen has blamed on rogue deals carried out by one of its junior traders.

France's biggest listed bank, BNP Paribas, managed to post a fourth-quarter net profit of around 1 billion euros in February, although this was down 42 percent from the previous year.

Credit Agricole shares closed 5.8 percent higher at 18.20 euros on Wednesday. The stock has fallen by around 20 percent since the start of 2008.