Singapore banks’ Q3 profit beat expectations

DBS Group Holdings posted a 20% drop in third-quarter net profit to US$1.3bil from US$1.63bil a year earlier, as it set aside higher allowances for potential bad loans and lower net interest income.

SINGAPORE: DBS and OCBC saw a fall in third-quarter net profit as they set aside more allowances against potential bad loans amid the coronavirus pandemic, joining United Overseas Bank which reported a day earlier.

But the local banks also struck a cautiously optimistic tone as regional economies pick up pace, and said they have ample provisions to tide through uncertainties ahead.

DBS Group Holdings posted a 20% drop in third-quarter net profit to US$1.3bil from US$1.63bil a year earlier, as it set aside higher allowances for potential bad loans and lower net interest income.

Earnings topped the US$1.12bil average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

The board has declared an interim dividend of 18 cents per share, down from 30 cents for the year-ago period, to which the bank’s scrip dividend scheme will be applied.

South-east Asia’s largest bank set aside allowances of US$554mil in the third quarter.

Together with allowances of US$1.94bil in the first half of the year, total allowances in the first nine months of this year quadrupled to US$2.49bil from a year ago, DBS said.

Three-fifths, or US$1.5bil, of this amount were general allowances conservatively set aside to fortify the balance sheet against macroeconomic risks.

The bank’s non-performing loan (NPL) ratio weakened to 1.6% from 1.5% a year ago.

DBS also saw lower net interest income, which fell 12% year on year to US$2.17bil as loan growth was offset by a lower net interest margin. The drop was 6% from the previous quarter.

Net interest margin fell nine basis points to 1.53% as the impact of global interest rate cuts in March and April was more fully felt.

Net interest margin is a key gauge of profitability for banks, measuring the difference between income earned from loans and the interest paid to depositors.

DBS’ annualised earnings per share stood at US$1.98 for the quarter, a decrease from US$2.50 a year ago.

Compared to the second quarter, net profit rose 4% as fee income rebounded 17% to pre-pandemic levels.

This softened the impact of lower interest rates and a decline in trading income from a high base.

DBS chief Piyush Gupta said the third-quarter results reflect a recovery in business momentum as regional economies emerge from lockdowns.

“The rebound in fee income to pre-Covid levels has enabled us to cushion the full impact of lower interest rates. At the same time, the accelerated build-up of allowances has strengthened our ability to meet the challenges of an uneven economic recovery in the coming year, ” he said.

Loans were stable in constant currency terms at US$371bil as underlying loan momentum remained healthy, said DBS.

Further drawdowns of non-trade corporate loans were offset by the repayment of short-term facilities made in the first half.

While Singapore housing loans dipped due to the delayed impact of the circuit breaker in the second quarter, new bookings rebounded strongly in the third quarter, DBS noted. Net profit for the first nine months fell 24% year-on-year to US$3.71bil due to the higher allowances.

Meanwhile, OCBC Bank’s net profit dipped 12% to US$1.03bil from US$1.17bil a year ago, on the back of lower net interest income and more allowances set aside for loans.

Its earnings topped the US$850mil average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Net interest income fell 11% year-on-year to $1.42bil, amid a sustained low interest rate environment.

Non-interest income rose 6% to US$1.12bil, led by higher trading income and insurance profit. Total allowances increased by 8% year-on-year to US$350mil, but fell from US$750mil in the previous quarter.

Net profit rose 41% from the previous quarter on the back of the lower allowances.

OCBC chief executive Samuel Tsien said that the economic outlook is still uncertain and it is important for the bank to continue strengthening its capital and balance sheet.

“This will position us well for the crisis and enable us to emerge well-prepared for new opportunities when the market recovers.” He added that OCBC has set aside prudent levels of allowances, and will stay vigilant in managing its credit portfolio as it works closely with customers to ensure a smooth and disciplined transition out of the moratorium programmes.

On Wednesday, United Overseas Bank posted a 40% drop in third-quarter net profit to US$668mil, from US$1.12bil a year earlier.

It set aside an additional US$339mil in credit allowance for non-impaired assets to strengthen provision coverage. The bank’s earnings were better than expected, topping the US$641mil average forecast by analysts in a Bloomberg poll. — The Straits Times/ANN

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