May 7 - Societe Generale, France's No. 2 listed bank, is to cut 900 million euros ($1.18 billion) in costs over the next three years, after one-off charges and a weak domestic economy halved quarterly earnings. Hayley Platt reports
900 million euros is today's daily digit in Europe - the cost reduction Societe Generale is looking to make over the next three years. France's second biggest bank aims to slash operational costs to shore up its balance sheet and improve its competitiveness. Up to 700 jobs could also go. The announcement came as SocGen reported a 50% fall in earnings in the first quarter. It made 364 million euros, less than expected. The lender blamed France's weak economy and a one-off litigation charge of 100 million euros. There was one bright spot, the bank's corporate and investment bank reported a rise in profit of almost 41 percent. The bank has also benefitted from selling off some of its subsidiaries in Greece and Egypt. France's third biggest bank, Credit Agricole, also reported earnings. But in contrast, it posted a 51% gain in quarterly profit, due to a favourable comparison with a year ago. Credit Agricole's decision to sell its loss-making Greek unit Emporiki a year ago paid off. Shares in the lender rose slightly in early trade, and has gained 18% so far this year.