Business News

France's SocGen to close 600 bank branches in profitability push

Key Points
  • Societe Generale is set to merge its retail banking networks.
  • The merger will result in 600 branch closures by the year 2025.
This photo, taken on October 28, 2019, shows the logo of the Societe Generale bank, in Ouistreham, Normandy, France.
SAMEER AL-DOUMY | AFP | Getty Images

France's Societe Generale on Monday accelerated plans to boost profitability by merging its two retail banking networks, resulting in the closure of 600 of its nearly 2,100 branches by 2025.

With low interest rates continuing to crimp lending income and retail banking margins, France's third-biggest listed lender said the merging of the two networks would save more than 350 million euros ($424 million) in costs in 2024 and nearly 450 million euros in 2025.

SocGen said the plan will cost between 700 million euros and 800 million euros.

"The amount of synergies forecast by management are in line with our and consensus expectations but restructuring costs are larger than we anticipated," UBS analysts said in a note.

SocGen shares were down 1.2% at 0959 GMT.

European lenders have been cutting branch numbers for years, but opposition from unions and politicians over banking access meant many were unable to cut as many as they wanted.

The number of bank branches in the European Union fell from about 238,000 in 2008 to 174,000 at the end of 2018, European Banking Federation figures show.

In Germany, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank have both announced significant cuts to their branch networks this year, with Deutsche Bank set to close about a fifth of its outposts.

With the COVID-19 pandemic having accelerated the shift to online banking across Europe, SocGen also aims to strengthen its Boursorama online operation.

The bank said Boursorama is targeting 4.5 million clients in 2025, up from 2.5 million this year.

Boursorama is expected to register cumulative losses of about 230 million euros by 2023 with net income of 100 million euros that year, rising to 200 million euros in 2025.

As part of profitability initiatives, Chief Executive Frederic Oudea placed SocGen's equity and credit structured products businesses under review this year after overall operations were hit by market volatility and dividend cancellations in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

In recent years the bank has also exited areas where it lacked scale, selling units and activities in eastern and central European countries such as Poland, Bulgaria and Albania.

Sources told Reuters that the lender is also planning to sell its asset management arm Lyxor. SocGen declined to comment on the matter.