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Briefcase theft forces Fortis to report early.

A stolen briefcase containing the annual results yesterday forced Fortis to reveal details of its 2005 performance a week ahead of schedule.

While there was no indication that the documents' purloining was the purpose of the theft, the Belgo-Dutch financial services group said it was bringing forward its results "in the interests of transparency".

But despite the briefcase mishap, Fortis - which has a presence in Birmingham - will have been cheered by a performance which saw net profits before divestments jump 45 per cent to 3.5 billion euros (pounds 2.4 billion).

Overall net profits rose 32 per cent to 3.9 billion euros (pounds 2.67 billion).

Banking net profit before results on divestments surged 53 per cent to 2.4 billion euros (pounds 1.65 billion), and the insurance equivalent was ahead nine per cent to 1.2 billion euros (pounds 823 million).

In the fourth quarter net profit before results on divestments rose by 24 per cent to 461 million euros (pounds 316 million).

Fortis' Birmingham-based West Midlands Business Centre is a significant contributor to the bank's strategy of providing international banking services to small and mid market companies.

Expertise offered by the bank includes acquisition finance, traditional lending, cross border cash management, leasing and invoice discounting and factoring.

Matthew Porter, regional director of Fortis Bank West Midlands, said 2005 had been a good year, with an increase in staff and clients.

He said: "In terms of income, we have increased by about 20 per cent, while we have added 50 more clients. Our team has also increased in size from 15 to 22."

The bank in Birmingham now has a portfolio of more than 200 corporate clients, including Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries, Enterprise Inns, Dechra and Triton.

Fortis said it would release full details next Thursday as planned.

"Fortis stresses that these figures have not yet been sub-mitted to the Fortis board of directors," the bank said.

One analyst praised Fortis' level of transparency by pub-lishing the results early but said they were "significantly below" his e xpectations.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 4, 2006
Words:341
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