BNP Paribas delivers earnings beat with strong revenues from investment banking division

BNP Paribas CFO: We had a very strong second quarter

France's largest bank BNP Paribas announced Friday that it delivered a top and bottom line beat in the second quarter, against consensus estimates, as its diversified banking model helped it to weather the recent trading activity downturn more successfully than many peers.

Here are some of the key metrics:

  • Q2 net income: 2.396 billion euros ($2.80 billion) vs. 1.91 billion euros estimate, according to Thomson Reuters.
  • Q2 revenue: 10.94 billion euros vs. 10.84 billion euros estimate, according to Thomson Reuters.

Speaking to the drivers of the lender's 17.2 percent annual jump in net income (excluding exceptional items), Lars Machenil, chief financial officer (CFO) told CNBC from the company's Parisian headquarters that BNP Paribas's strong result was due to success across the bank's various divisions.

"It's basically a tribute to our operational performance in our three domains and also a tribute to our continued focus on cost reduction," said Machenil, adding that being ahead of competitors in restructuring operations and tending to funding needs soon after the financial crisis had enabled it to now be in a position to capture opportunities from rivals who were still pivoting their business strategy.

"We basically adapted our CIB (Corporate and Institutional Banking division) early on in the regulation so today we are well-capitalized," explained the CFO.

Pedestrians pass a branch of BNP Paribas SA bank in Paris, France.
Balint Porneczi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In prior quarters, the bank has fallen short of its cost-cutting ambitions, however, during this quarter the lender benefited from efficiencies created by programs that were set in motion a year ago or longer and that included elements such as increased digitalization of certain divisions, such as CIB.

Given the continued low interest rate environment, the focus on costs and managing the cost of risk has grown ever more acute. Despite achieving 8 percent growth in French retail loans for the quarter - a result which the CFO attributes to the positive momentum sensed in the euro zone in recent months - the domestic retail operation's overall sales result was dragged lower by the ongoing headwind of the ultra-loose monetary policy set by the European Central Bank (ECB).

"We are trying to compensate by working on the costs and by basically ensuring that the cost of risk … Remains very low," affirmed Machenil, noting that the cost of risk had dropped by 36 basis points (bps) over the past year.

BNP Paribas's reliance on the continuation of the region's recently regained confidence was emphasized by its CFO, who said it was too early to determine yet whether France's newly inaugurated President Emmanuel Macron - who has been singled out as a key driver of Europe's renewed sense of optimism - would succeed or fail in his ambitious reform plan and how consumers and businesses would react should he fall short.

BNP Paribas CFO: We'll adapt to shifting interest rates

With regards to the ECB's timid movements towards the quantitative easing (QE) exit door, Machenil said the bank was ready for any action taken by central bankers provided that Europeans' buoyancy remained intact.

"Most important is there is a continuation of this positive business momentum … And then in the end if the rates go up or down that is something we adapt to," he declared.

The bank's closely watched common equity tier one ratio (CET1) - a gauge of a bank's capital strength - edged up to 11.7 percent in the second quarter from 11.6 percent during the previous three month period, remaining on track to hit the goal of reaching 12.0 percent by 2020.

Challenged on whether the target was sufficiently ambitious given that several peers had chosen more aggressive goals - such as Deutsche Bank's 14.0 percent target - Machenil said that the French bank's stable track record justified it.

"If you look at BNP Paribas, which is a very diversified bank, basically over the last couple of years where there has been turmoil everywhere the bank basically never had a year of loss. So this diversification and this focus on really being risk averse has basically worked very well," explained the banking executive.

"As it has never led to big swings in results, it's understandable that therefore we can have a more stable level of capital," he concluded.