Austria's RBI more than doubles quarterly profit

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Updates with details, background

VIENNA, Jan 31 (Reuters) -Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International RBIV.VI, one of the banks in Europe most exposed to Russia, on Tuesday said fourth-quarter profit more than doubled and that it had "advanced" its assessment of the future of its Russia and Belarus business.

RBI has been studying strategic options for the business, including a possible withdrawal, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year. It has warned that its effort may take some time.

CEO Johann Strobl said RBI had "advanced" its assessment of the businesses there but provided no details.

"We operate in a previously unknown, complex market environment. This includes ever-changing legal and regulatory requirements," he said.

Consolidated profit in the quarter was 826 million euros ($897.78 million). That is up from 317 million euros a year ago and better than the 657 million euros expected by analysts. Business from Russia has lifted earnings in recent quarters.

The lender has operated in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Its business there, one of Russia's largest banks by assets, has contributed heavily to the group's profit, but because of sanctions, what it earns in Russia stays in Russia.

RBI also said that it would recommend a dividend of up to 80 cents per share.

($1 = 0.9200 euros)

Reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich and Tom Sims, editing by Thomas Escritt and Deepa Babington


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