The FINANCIAL -- In the first quarter of 2018, Commerzbank continued on its growth path and made further progress on its strategy.
The two client segments, Private and Small Business Customers and Corporate Clients, further enlarged their customer base and are well on track to reaching their customer growth targets for 2018. The Bank additionally added corporate loan growth as a key indicator of its strategy execution in its reporting. The digitalisation of the business also progressed. In the first quarter the Corporate Clients segment successfully rolled out its digital onboarding for corporates and a digital working-capital lending platform. Also, the Bank aims to resume dividend payments for financial year 2018, and made an accrual of 5 cents per share in the first quarter, according to Commerzbank.
The Bank’s operating performance in the first quarter of 2018 was stable. Revenues adjusted for exceptional items rose slightly to €2,301 million (Q1 2017: €2,282 million). Overall, revenues stood at €2,302 million (Q1 2017: €2,390 million). The operating profit came to €289 million (Q1 2017: €330 million). The risk result under International Financial Reporting Standard 9 (IFRS 9) stood at minus €77 million. It reflects the eliminated drag from ship finance, due to the revaluation of the Ship Finance portfolio following the introduction of IFRS 9. The Bank's non-performing loan (NPL) ratio, which was already low compared to its European peers, dropped to 1.0%, illustrating the Bank's healthy risk profile.
Operating expenses, at €1,936 million, were higher year-on-year (Q1 2017: €1,865 million). This reflects investments in strategy implementation and digitalisation which increased in the course of the year as planned and regulatory burdens. The operating expenses for the first quarter include compulsory contributions of €244m. Thereof, €186m was the contribution for the European bank levy for the year 2018, which increased by €15m year-on-year and was fully booked in the first quarter. Running costs for the fulfilment of regulatory requirements, such as those incurred in connection with MiFIR, MiFID II and IFRS 9, increased as well. The pre-tax profit stood at €289 million in the first quarter of 2018. The net profit came to €250 million (Q1 2017: €229 million). Earnings per share came in at €0.20 in the first quarter of 2018 (Q1 2017: €0.18).
“We are delivering on what is the core of our strategy: Growing our businesses with private and corporate customers and digitalising our business”, said Martin Zielke, Chairman of the Board of Managing Directors of Commerzbank. “As announced, we are aiming to resume dividend payments for financial year 2018 and have made an accrual of 5 cents per share in the first quarter.”
Common Equity Tier 1 ratio at 13.3% – risk profile shows further improvement
Risk-weighted assets (RWA) in the first quarter rose by €1 billion to €170 billion at the end of March 2018. With the introduction of IFRS 9, RWA had decreased by €2 billion and stood at pro forma € 169 billion per 1 January 2018. The increase in the first quarter was mainly due to higher lending in the client segments. The Common Equity Tier 1 ratio (CET 1) stood at 13.3% at the end of the first quarter. Thus, after IFRS 9 Commerzbank is still above all regulatory requirements and has leeway for further growth and the dividend accrual in the first quarter. The leverage ratio fell to 4.6% quarter-on-quarter, after 5.1% at the end of December 2017, mainly due to IFRS 9. Total assets came to €470 billion (end of 2017: €453 billion).
“Our business grew further in the first quarter. Growth is our answer to what remains a highly competitive German banking market”, said Stephan Engels, Chief Financial Officer of Commerzbank.
He added: “Strict cost management remains a priority to compensate for large investments in digitalisation, increasing compulsory levies and the implementation of regulatory projects.”
Development of the segments
The Private and Small Business Customers (PSBC) segment continued its growth in the first quarter of 2018. Revenues climbed to €1,237 million (Q1 2017: €1,168 million). Excluding non-recurring items they improved by €44 million due to the good loan growth, more than offsetting the impact of negative interest rates. Operating profit rose year-on-year to €202 million (Q1 2017: €194 million).
The Bank gained approximately 73,000 net new private and small business customers in Germany in the first quarter, meaning customer growth was higher than in the previous two quarters. The PSBC segment has gained a net 712,000 new customers in Germany since October 2016, so it is well on track to reach its target of one million net new customers by the end of 2018. Assets under Control showed large gains in loans (€3 billion), deposits (€3 billion) and net new inflows in securities accounts (€3 billion). Thanks to this growth, Assets under Control amounting to €376 billion remained stable relative to the previous quarter, despite falling equity markets.
mBank, Comdirect and Commerz Real saw further business growth in the first quarter of 2018, and were able to increase their revenues compared to the first quarter of 2017. While Comdirect profited from customer growth and increased client trading activity due to higher market volatility, mBank benefited from margin expansion as well as volume growth in loans and deposits.
The risk result for the segment came to minus €52 million. This includes the risk costs for the instalment loan business, which Commerzbank has been operating on its books after it terminated a joint venture. Due to the high quality of the loan book, the risk result is still at a low level. Operating expenses climbed year-on-year to €984 million (Q1 2017: €941 million). This includes the charges for both the European bank levy and the Polish banking tax, which went up by €7 million year-on-year, as well as costs for the implementation of MiFID II and investments in growth and digitalisation. Costs were down quarter-on-quarter, though (Q4 2017: €1,016 million).
The Corporate Clients (CC) segment registered further growth as well. The Bank gained around 1,000 net new corporate clients in the first quarter and increased the volume of lending to German Mittelstand companies and large corporates year-on-year. Business was marked by pricing competition on the German market and muted client demand for capital market products in the first quarter of 2018. The operating profit was down in the first quarter, at €145 million (Q1 2017: €267 million). Revenues excluding valuation effects decreased year-on-year to €967 million (Q1 2017: €1,068 million). The Mittelstand and International Corporates divisions reflected the challenging market environment. Revenues in Financial Institutions increased quarter-on-quarter, after the Bank tightened its risk and compliance framework in 2017.
The segment’s risk result stood at minus €23 million in the first quarter of 2018. Operating expenses remained close to stable year-on-year, at €799 million (Q1 2017: €790 million). Personnel reductions undertaken as part of the segment’s strategic realignment compensated for higher investments.
In the Asset & Capital Recovery (ACR) segment, the revaluation of the Ship Finance portfolio following the introduction of IFRS 9 had a positive impact. The segment's operating result improved in the first quarter of 2018 to €18 million (Q1 2017: minus €33 million). Revenues came to €45 million (Q1 2017: €115 million). The ACR segment did not generate any charges for the risk result in the first quarter (loan loss provisions Q1 2017: €119 million). Operating expenses remained stable at €27 million in the first quarter of 2018
(Q1 2017: €29 million).
The outlook remains unchanged: In 2018 the Bank will focus on further growth and the implementation of its Commerzbank 4.0 strategy. Higher adjusted revenues are expected for both the Private and Small Business Customers and the Corporate Clients segments. Despite ongoing investments in digitalisation and IT, the Bank will manage its costs at around €7.0 billion. The risk result under IFRS 9 is expected to be below €600 million. The Bank aims to resume dividend payments for financial year 2018.