By Gilbert Kreijger
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch state-owned bank ABN AMRO <ABNNV.UL> said it expected bad loan costs to remain high this year due to the recession in the Netherlands, after a tripling of such costs in the fourth quarter pushed it into a loss.
ABN AMRO, the third-largest Dutch bank after ING <ING.AS> and Rabobank <RABO.UL>, also suffered from a writedown on Greek government-guaranteed corporate debt.
Results in 2011 were hit by the "rapidly deteriorating macro-economic environment", especially as the Dutch economy has been in recession since July, ABN AMRO said.
"Loan provisions will certainly be high in 2012, and may perhaps increase. The recession in the second half of last year will probably lead to further contraction in the first half this year, and more companies will run into trouble," ABN AMRO Chief Executive Gerrit Zalm told reporters.
The Dutch economy is expected to contract 0.75 percent in 2012 as consumers, hit by falling house prices and pension cuts, spend less, and the Dutch government tries to reduce its budget deficit.
Total bad loan costs were 768 million euros in the fourth quarter, due to charges for loans to Dutch companies and a 330 million euro writedown on Greek corporate debt, ABN AMRO said in an investor presentation.
This was 13 percent higher than in the third quarter, and three times higher than in the fourth quarter in 2010.
ABN AMRO took the charge on debt, issued by Greek state-owned companies in the public transport sector, because the bonds were put on a Greek government list that identifies which bonds would be part of Greece's private-sector debt swap.
The debt swap offer, part of the long road to Greek recovery from a crippling debt burden, closed late on Thursday and reached the take-up level needed to deem it a success.
Zalm said ABN AMRO had not participated in this debt deal because the Greek bonds it held were corporate bonds and issued under English law. It was considering what to do but had not yet taken any decisions.
The Greek loans and bonds, which have a nominal value of 1.3 billion euros, were written down by 75 percent, including a 500 million euro impairment in the third quarter.
ABN AMRO will stick to its plan to be privatized by a stock listing in 2014 or later, Zalm said.
The Dutch government nationalized the Dutch operations of ABN AMRO and Fortis for 16.8 billion euros when Belgian-Dutch Fortis group lost investors' confidence at the height of the credit crisis in 2008.
ABN AMRO made a fourth-quarter net loss of 121 million euros, the second consecutive quarterly loss. It made a profit of 213 million euros in the same period in 2010.
(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger; Editing by Sara Webb and Will Waterman)