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Banks | Earnings: Credit Suisse income rises 75% from a year ago, but bank sets aside big coronavirus loss provision

Elliot Smith

Credit Suisse reported a 75% rise in first-quarter net profit Thursday, in new CEO Thomas Gottstein’s first earnings report since taking the helm.
The bank reported a net income of 1.31 billion Swiss francs ($1.34 billion) for the three months up to March 31, up from 749 million for the same period last year.
However, the Swiss lender set aside 568 million Swiss francs for potential loan losses, mainly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and warned it expected “Covid-19-related uncertainty to persist.” For comparison, in the first quarter of 2019, the bank set aside 81 million Swiss francs for potential loan losses.
“The scale of the adverse economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis is still difficult to assess and we would caution that we may also see further reserve build and impairments in the coming quarters, particularly in our Corporate Bank and other loans, outside Switzerland, as well as from our investments in Asset Management,” the bank said in a statement Thursday.
Here are some of the key highlights of the first quarter:
  • Net revenue hit 5.8 billion Swiss francs, up 7% from 5.4 billion in the first quarter of 2019.
  • The closely-watched common equity tier 1 (CET1) ratio stood at 12.1% in the first quarter, down from 12.7% the previous quarter and 12.6% for the same period last year.
  • Return on tangible equity (ROTE) came in at 13.1%, up from 8.6% in the fourth quarter 2019, and 7.8% in the first quarter of 2019.
In its report, the bank attributed the lower CET1 ratio to an “increase of risk-weighted assets, mainly from corporate lending drawdowns and increased market volatility in the second half of the quarter.”
Credit Suisse will propose halving its dividend at its Annual General Meeting on April 30 following pressure from Swiss regulator FINMA. The board will propose an Extraordinary General Meeting in the autumn of 2020 for the distribution of the second half of the 2019 dividend “subject to market and economic conditions.”
Along with cutting its dividend, Credit Suisse will also suspend its 2020 share buyback program until at least the third quarter, in order to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In its report, the bank said this was a “prudent and responsible step to preserving capital in the face of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The first-quarter earnings report marked the bank’s first since former CEO Tidjane Thiam departed in February following a prolonged spying scandal.
The allocation for potential credit losses comes after major banks in the U.S. last week set aside a total of around $25 billion for the first quarter.
Market expectations for loan loss provisions by Europe’s major lenders in 2020 have increased 130% over the past 30 days, according to a Reuters analysis of data from Refinitiv.
Meanwhile, more than 40% has been shaved off of analysts’ full-year profit forecast for European banks, including HSBC, BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank.


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