ABN AMRO's Profit Sags, Blames "Challenging" Conditions

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 13 November 2019

ABN AMRO's Profit Sags, Blames

The banking group said it may take longer than expected to reach its cost/income ratio goals if the negative/ultra-low rate environment endures.

Netherlands-listed banking group ABN AMRO today reported a 24 per cent year-on-year drop in profits for the third quarter of this year, with the result coming in at €558 million ($614.5 million). The low-interest rate environment is “challenging”, the bank said, and if such conditions persist the lender said it will take longer than planned to boost its margins.

As previously announced in September this year, ABN AMRO faces an official government probe into money laundering and terrorism finance issues. The bank said it will update the markets further on this in the fourth quarter.

The bank said its Q3 cost/income ratio was 59.4 per cent, while its Common Equity Tier 1 ratio – a standard international measure of capital strength – was 18.2 per cent.

“The interest rate environment remains challenging. If rates stay low, it will take longer to reach our cost/income target of 56–58 per cent. We already charge negative rates to CIB clients and the largest clients in commercial and private banking. We have decided that we will not charge negative rates on deposits below €100,000. This commitment means that around 95 per cent of our clients, representing approximately 40 per cent of our deposit base, will be safeguarded from negative rates,” Kees van Dijkhuizen, chief executive, said in a statement. He described today’s results as “mixed”.

Operating income fell by 9 per cent on the year to €2.101 billion; costs rose by 2 per cent to €1.247 billion. Return on average equity was 11 per cent, down from 14 per cent a year earlier.

(Editorial comment: The banking group's private banking arm is increasingly focused on core European markets; the group spun off its Asian and Middle East private banking operations to LGT, the Liechtenstein-based group, in late 2016. A few years before that, it bought private banking operations in Germany from Credit Suisse. Given Europe's sluggish economic environment and low/negative rates, contrasting with a livelier Asian market in particular, it is arguable whether this shift makes sense over the medium term.)

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