Singapore's UOB revises down 2024 loan growth, Q4 profit beats forecasts


— AFP

SINGAPORE: Singapore's United Overseas Bank (UOB) on Thursday cut its 2024 loan growth projections to low single-digits from mid-single digits after posting a stronger-than-forecast 22% jump in fourth quarter net profit.

UOB maintained its 2024 guidance for double-digit fee growth while projecting total income to see positive growth, UOB CEO Wee Ee Cheong said in a briefing on the bank's earnings.

Wee said UOB focuses "on high quality customers" for loan growth while it expected double-digit fee growth would be led by its retail franchise in cards and wealth.

Credit costs for 2024 are expected to be at the lower end of its previous 25 to 30 basis points guidance range, he added.

"2023 was a challenging year. We saw slowing demand globally, more geopolitical tensions, sticky inflation and higher interest rates," Wee said. "We expect some of these to persist this year but the impact should be manageable."

Wee said Southeast Asia remained a bright spot due to robust domestic demand, recovery in tourism and investment flows into the manufacturing sector as multi-national companies diversified supply chains.

Shares of UOB dropped 2.4% Thursday in early trade, underperforming the local benchmark index's 0.5% decline.

Singapore's banks, the largest in Southeast Asia, are set to post higher profits for the fourth quarter because of higher interest rates, though growth momentum is poised to slow as global central banks pivot toward rate cuts and volatile markets weigh on their mainstay wealth business.

Larger peer DBS Group earlier this month reported a 2% rise in fourth quarter net profit that beat forecasts but projected 2024 net interest margin to be slightly below last year as interest rates are expected to soften.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp is due to announce its results on Feb. 28.

UOB, which is Southeast Asia's third-largest bank by assets, said October-December net profit climbed to S$1.40 billion ($1.04 billion) from S$1.15 billion a year earlier.

This beat the mean estimate of S$1.37 billion from three analysts polled by LSEG.

The bank recommended the payment of a final dividend of 85 Singapore cents per share, bringing the total dividend for 2023 to S$1.70 per share.

UOB's 2023 net interest margin, a key gauge of profitability, rose to 2.09% from 1.86% a year earlier.

The bank said its wealth asset under management rose 14% to S$176 billion. - Reuters

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