HSBC Bank Malta p.l.c. delivered a resilient performance for the year ended 31 December 2013 against a challenging economic backdrop.
As a result of the combination of the continuing difficult market conditions in Europe, the low interest rate environment, costs associated with regulatory changes both at home and abroad and a subdued local economy, reported profit before tax of €90m declined by 5%, or €5m compared to 2012.
The fall in 2013 results reflected lower levels of net interest income and a lower contribution from the Life Insurance Company which had benefitted from favourable equity markets in 2012 which was not repeated in 2013.
All three main business lines, Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Commercial Banking and Global Banking and Markets, remained profitable during the year.
Mark Watkinson, Director and Chief Executive Officer at HSBC Malta, said: “In a year of considerable challenges, we have continued to deliver resilient results for our shareholders. Global conditions look to remain difficult for the medium term, however we are starting to see green shoots of growth as the market becomes more optimistic. We continue to look for growth opportunities both in Malta and also in the wider global market place where HSBC Malta is well positioned to connect our customers to some 74 other countries in which HSBC, one of the world’s largest financial groups, operates.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank our staff, directors and shareholders for their continued commitment, hard work and support during 2013.”
Net interest income reduced by 6% to €125m compared with €133m in 2012. The fall in interest income reflected a tightening in interest margin on lower average lending balances and a decline in interest earned on investments as the proceeds of higher yielding maturing bonds were re-invested at lower rates. This was partially offset by lower cost of funds as customers migrated to more liquid but lower yielding short-dated deposits.
Net fee and commission income of €30m was broadly in line with 2012.
HSBC Life Assurance (Malta) Ltd. reported a profit before tax of €13m compared with €18m in 2012. The results in 2012 benefited from higher investment returns in a more favourable equity market.
A net gain of €4m was reported as a result of a re-positioning of the investment portfolio.
Operating expenses of €93m were €3m or 4% lower compared to the previous year which included a €6m provision in relation to a staff early voluntary retirement scheme. Excluding this item, expenses rose by 3%. The increase of €2m, or 8% in administrative expenses reflected an increased cost of compliance, regulatory projects and security and fraud-risk related costs. Sustainable cost savings from the simplification and re-engineering of processes funded continuing investment to improve technology.
The cost efficiency ratio was 49.9% compared to 49.0% in 2012.
Net impairment provisions of €3m were lower compared with the €5m in 2012. Overall asset quality remains acceptable with a high percentage of tangible security held for the overall loan portfolio
Net loans and advances to customers at €3,301m were €53m lower than at 31 December 2012. The demand for new commercial loans from customers remained subdued as commercial customers have used surplus cash to repay borrowings and delay investments in times of uncertainty. However, there are early indications of an increase in activity in the beginning of 2014. The residential mortgage portfolio continued to record steady growth. Gross new business lending to customers amounted to €597m (2012: €507m) reflecting the HSBC Bank Malta’s continued support of the local economy.
Customer deposit levels at €4,518m were broadly unchanged despite continued competitive pressures.
The bank’s available-for-sale investments portfolio remains well diversified and conservatively positioned.
The bank’s liquidity position is strong with an advances-to-deposits ratio of 73% compared with 74% at 31 December 2012.
The bank continued to strengthen its total capital ratio to 12.9% as at the end of year and the tier 1 capital ratio improved to 9.4%.
In December 2013, the Malta Financial Services Authority’s revised Banking Rule 09 (BR09) came into effect, with the ultimate aim of increasing the level of bank reserves. BR09 requires the bank to hold a Reserve for General Banking Risk, calculated as a percentage of non-performing loans. This reserve is required to be funded from planned dividends. Under the three year transitionary rules, the bank has set aside €4m in 2013 (40% of the currently estimated reserve). The remainder will be set aside in two equal instalments over the next two years. As a consequence, it is anticipated there will be lower levels of distributions made to shareholders over the next two years.
During 2014 HSBC Malta will be participating in the European Central Bank (‘ECB’) comprehensive assessment that includes an asset quality review (‘AQR’) and a stress test. In 2013, the bank analysed the impact of several stress scenarios, including several different macroeconomic scenarios. The results of this analysis indicated that the bank would remain adequately capitalised.
The Board is recommending for the approval of the Annual General Meeting a final gross dividend of 5.2 cent per share (3.4 cent net of tax). This will be paid on 25 April 2014 to shareholders who are on the bank’s register of shareholders at 17 March 2014. The Board is also recommending a bonus issue of one share for every nine shares held by shareholders on the bank’s share register as at close of business on the 29 April 2014 by capitalisation of reserves amounting to €10m increasing share capital from €87m to €97m.