French banking group Societe Generale reported full-year earnings on Wednesday which failed to meet market expectations but came in three times higher than the previous year.
Net profit for 2013 came in at 2.17 billion euros ($2.96 billion), compared to a consensus estimate in a Reuters poll of 2.25 billion euros. This compared to profits for 2012 which came in at 790 million euros. Speaking to CNBC, Severin Cabannes, the deputy CEO at Societe Generale called the results "solid" and was pleased that all the core parts of the business had contributed to the performance.
A good performance in French retail banking, improved revenues of its Russian activities and "buoyant" results it its financial services for corporations business were the three main pillars of its success, according to Wednesday's press release.
"We are well positioned today to meet new challenges and opportunities," he said. "We have deeply strengthened our balance sheet."
One area of investment banking that failed to match the growth of previous years was its fixed-income unit. 2012 saw increased revenues due to the ultra-easy monetary policies of central banks across the globe. However, investors fell out of love with fixed income in 2013 with the unraveling of quantitative easing programs and yields ticking higher throughout the year. Societe Generale said that adjusted revenues for its fixed-income, currencies and commodities unit were down 18.9 percent year-on-year, but called the results "resilient" after a strong performance in 2012.
Revenues for its investment bank as a whole rose, up 14 percent compared to 2012. This was helped by a strong performance in its equity activities. For the whole group, revenue came in at 22.8 billion euros, which failed to meet analysts' forecasts of 23.07 billion euros, but showed a rise of 4.3 percent compared to 2012.
The French bank also announced a return on equity of 8.4 percent for the year and said that its common equity tier 1 ratio (Basel III) - how much money the bank holds compared to its assets - stood at 10 percent. It added that it would look to pay a dividend of 1 euro per share back to shareholders and is targeting a dividend payout ratio of 40 percent for 2014, up 27 percent from the year before.
Reuters cited CEO Frederic Oudea as saying that the group's bonus pool for employees had been reduced, in stark contrast to U.K. bank Barclays which announced a 10 percent rise in its compensation costs for 2013.
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Cabannes also told CNBC that he was looking forward to the European Central Bank's banking stress tests which began in November. The ECB will publish health tests of Europe's biggest banks before it takes on the task of supervising them. To take the burden of rescuing banks off the shoulders of governments, European leaders agreed to create a system that would move supervision of the financial sector to a European level, and the bank stress tests are seen as an important step towards this "banking union".
Cabannes said the exercise would have no major impact on SocGen and would give more transparency and more trust in the European banking union.
"It will harmonize and standardize the different ways that regulation is implemented in each country. So for us it's a very positive process which would stop the fragmentation process of the European banking market which is a key element for Europe," he said.
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