BNP Paribas cost cuts help offset revenue drop

Thursday 31 October 2013 08.59
BNP Paribas's third-quarter net income rose 2.4%, but revenues dipped
BNP Paribas's third-quarter net income rose 2.4%, but revenues dipped

BNP Paribas said its third-quarter net income rose 2.4% as it fought fading growth and a lacklustre economic environment in its core European markets with cost cuts.

Banks across Europe are overhauling their businesses and chopping costs to appease regulators and protect profits in the wake of the financial crisis and a fragile economic recovery.

"Our cost-saving plan is proceeding swiftly," BNP's chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said, adding that the bank would give new targets and a strategic plan near the end of March.

The French bank has pledged to save €2 billion a year by 2015 through a cost-cutting drive, while at the same time reinvesting to grow beyond its core French, Italian and Belgian markets into faster-growing Asia, the US and Germany.

The bank reported quarterly net income of €1.36 billion, up from €1.33 billion the same time a year ago.

Revenue fell 4.2% to €9.29 billion, however, as the euro zone's fragile exit from recession and a fall in fixed-income trading hit both retail and investment banking.

BNP's domestic rivals Societe Generale and Credit Agricole which are pursuing efficiency drives of their own, are due to report results next week.

BNP's cuts have mostly focused on its retail business, which traditionally has been a cash cow - especially in France - but which suffered from a drop in loans and fees in the third quarter.

BNP's investment bank - which went through its own overhaul in 2012 - saw weaker fixed-income trading in the quarter, as did rivals Credit Suisse and JPMorgan, over fears that the US Federal Reserve would reduce its bond-buying programme. The unit's pre-tax profits fell 22%.

Credit Suisse has said it will ramp down its rates business. UBS, Deutsche Bank and Barclays are all restructuring their investment banks, which have become less lucrative in volatile post-crisis markets.

BNP's balance-sheet strength, an area closely watched by investors as banks prepare for a sector health-check by the European Central Bank, was a bright spot. Its core Tier 1 capital ratio under tougher Basel III rules rose to 10.8% while its Basel III leverage ratio was 3.8%.

By comparison, UBS' core capital ratio is 11.9%, Deutsche Bank's is 9.7% and Barclays' is 9.6%.