Danske Bank blames Internet for Finnish branch closures

HELSINKI (AFP) - Changing banking habits in Finland and the rise of Internet transactions is causing leading Danish bank Danske Bank to close nearly half of its 85 branches there, it said on Friday.

A spokesman for the bank, Timo Anttila said: "This year we are going to close a total of 37 branches out of 85... about 20 of these closures had already been announced."

The bank said that talks with staff representatives were underway and that the extent of job cuts was not yet known.

The bank said in March that it intended to reduce the number of jobs in Finland by up to 195 this year.

The closures are part of a programme to reduce costs in line with changes in the way customers use bank services.

The bank said that only one per cent of daily banking activity went through branch offices because customers were making increasing use of bank cards and Internet services.

Danske Bank reported at the beginning of May that first-quarter net profit had almost doubled on a 12-month basis, but that this was below its target.