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BNP net profit halves, to revamp corporate banking

BNP Paribas profit misses estimates

French bank BNP Paribas on Friday reported fourth quarter earnings below analyst forecasts and said it would revamp its Corporate and Institutional Banking (CIB) unit to cope with headwinds from regulatory changes.

Net income came in at 665 million euros in the fourth quarter, below the 845 million euros forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts, and a 51.7 percent drop from the same period last year. The group recorded one-off transformation and restructuring costs related to acquisitions, as well as a 69 million euro contribution to a dedicated fund for the resolution of four Italian banks.

Logo of French bank BNP Paribas.
MICHEL GANGNE | AFP | Getty Images

"The division is generating best in class profitability among its European peers," however "a new step in CIB's adaptation is now needed in order to cope with new constraints," the group said in a statement. The group wants to achieve 1 billion euros in cost savings by 2019 and reduce risk-weighted assets by 20 billion euros. BNP shares jumped 5 percent following the news.

Chief financial officer Lars Machenil told CNBC the overall business evolution in CIB was good, with 13 percent revenue growth for the unit in 2015.

"Nevertheless, we know that there are some headwinds ahead…and so we started to embark on a transformation to confront these headwinds," he said.

BNP said the plan was needed in order to cope with "restraints" such as capital ratio requirements and new banking regulations in Europe.

"The change basically aims to improve by 2019 the pre-tax return on equity by 8 points, and we do this along three levers: focus, improve and grow." Included in the aim were plans to focus on freeing up capital, improving cost efficiency and growing strategic initiatives, he said.

The board will propose a dividend of 2.31 euros per share to be paid in cash, equivalent to a 45 percent pay-out ratio.

Along with the rest of global markets, European bank stocks have experienced marked volatility since the start of the year with concerns over a slowdown in China ratting investor sentiment.

Machenil dismissed the notion of a "hard landing" in the world's second largest economy and fears that a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis could be starting, however.

"If you look back in 2008 or even in 2011 there were tangible indicators and there were drops which were still more profound than we have today. Then there were very tangible clear and present dangers which are not as present today," he said.

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