EUROPE – Fortis Investments’ net operating profit fell nine percent in the first quarter – although assets under management rose four percent.

Fortis said net operating profit at its asset management arm Fortis Investments fell to 10 million euros in the period.

Assets under management rose by three billion euros, or four percent, to 81 billion euros. Net new cash in the institutional business amounted to 0.7 billion euros.

Fortis chief executive Anton van Rossum said the group would “seek to further expand certain businesses in which we have a competitive advantage on a European or a global basis”. “These include commercial banking, selected merchant banking activities, investor services and bancassurance.”

Information banking’s net operating profit rose 27% to 14 million euros, with total assets under global custody at the arm rising 11% to 431 billion euros. It added that it has partnered with technology consulting firm Ordina to outsource securities transactions.

Fortis also said that its employee benefits arm has been selected to manage the 50,000-member Belgian food industry pension scheme.

And it said it has signed a pan-European proxy voting agreement with Deminor Rating.

Fortis posted an overall net profit of 1.275 billion euros, against a loss of 453 million euros a year ago.

"Fortis delivered a strong operating performance in the first quarter of 2004, building on the performance improvement in both the banking and the insurance activities achieved during the latter half of last year,” said van Rossum.