UniCredit, Italy's biggest lender and one of Europe's top banks, posted a massive net loss for 2011 on Tuesday but a better-than-expected profit in the fourth quarter cheered investors.
The bank made a loss of 9.21 billion euros ($12.3 billion) following write-downs and a 7.5-billion-euro capital increase to meet new requirements demanded by regulators in the wake of the global financial crisis.
The company had made a net profit of 1.32 billion euros in 2010.
The result had been largely expected after UniCredit last November announced a 10.64-billion-euro net loss for the third quarter.
Financial markets responded well, however, after profits for the final quarter came in at 114 million euros compared to the 70 million euros expected by analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.
"The underlying performance in 2011 showed the resilience of the group in a very challenging environment," UniCredit chief Federico Ghizzoni said.
Italy fell into recession in the second half of last year and Prime Minister Mario Monti has struggled to implement budget cuts and free-market reforms aimed at boosting growth since coming to power in November.
UniCredit shares in Milan were up 2.22 percent at 4.058 euros in afternoon trading, while the benchmark index was down 0.14 percent.
The bank, which employs around 160,000 people worldwide, was helped by a fall in bad loans in Germany and Eastern Europe in the fourth quarter but was dragged down in 2011 by goodwill impairments in Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Its capital increase was successful despite sharp drops in the bank's share price which had sparked concern that European banks would not be able to attract capital as the 17-nation eurozone appeared to head into a recession.
UniCredit said earlier it would not be paying any dividend to shareholders.
Its revenues fell 3.4 percent from 2010 to 25.2 billion euros last year and its gross operating profit dropped 9.4 percent to 9.7 billion euros.
UniCredit has been rocked by an executive shake-up in recent months following the ousting of long-time chief executive Alessandro Profumo in 2010. Chairman Dieter Rampl has said he will not be staying on after May.
Profumo, who has been charged in a separate case of corporate tax fraud, has meanwhile been appointed head of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena.
There have been strong tensions between traditional shareholders -- mainly Italian banking foundations -- on one side and rising players on the other.
The Abu Dhabi Aabar fund now holds the biggest stake in UniCredit -- 6.5 percent -- and the Libyan central bank is estimated to hold around 2.7 percent.