Against the background of sustained economic expansion, only moderately rising inflation, a stronger euro and continuing low interest rates, KBC posted a net profit of 399 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2017. The quarter under review was impacted by a one-off, upfront negative effect of 211 million euros due to the Belgian corporate tax reform. Excluding this one-off item, the net result amounted to 610 million euros for the fourth quarter of 2017. Our core businesses performed well once again, with costs remaining under control and asset quality remaining strong as demonstrated by a loan loss provisions release. Adding the fourth-quarter result to the results for the first three quarters of the year brought the net result to 2 575 million euros for the full year, up 6% on the 2 427 million euros recorded for full year 2016. Our liquidity position remained robust, while our solid solvency position is reflected in a common equity ratio (fully-loaded) of 16.3% at year-end 2017.
‘We booked a net profit of 399 million euros in the fourth quarter. This result was impacted by the one-off negative effect of 211 million euros due to the Belgian corporate tax reform (which will have a recurring positive impact on income taxes for the Belgian entities going forward) . Excluding this one-off item, our net result amounted to a good 610 million euros. It was supported by a pick-up in fee and commission income, a strong level of income generated by the dealing room and an impairment release, but also included a typical end-of-year hike in costs.
Combined with the 630 million euros recorded in the first quarter, the exceptionally strong 855 million euros in the second quarter and the 691 million euros in the third quarter, this brings our net result for full year 2017 to an excellent 2 575 million euros, up 6% on the figure for 2016.
On the regulatory front, there was a more benign outcome to the Basel IV discussions. We estimate the impact of Basel IV on KBC to be roughly 8 billion euros in additional risk weighted assets on a fully loaded basis as at year-end 2017, which corresponds to a risk weighted assets inflation of 9% and an impact of -1.3% on the common equity ratio. This figure is based on our current interpretation of Basel IV, a static balance sheet and the current economic environment. It also does not take into account possible management actions. For our capital deployment plan, the 1% Basel IV buffer relative to our peer group is no longer required. Taking into account the updated median common equity ratio of our 12 peers, our ‘own capital target’ and ‘reference capital position’ have been lowered to 14% and 16%, respectively. Regarding IFRS9, we expect a negative impact of its first-time application on our fully loaded common equity ratio of approximately 41 basis points.
We will propose to the General Meeting of Shareholders in May the total (gross) dividend for 2017 be set at 3 euros per share, meaning that – following payment of the interim dividend of 1 euro per share in November 2017 – the final gross dividend to be paid in May will be 2 euros per share. We will also propose buying back 2.7 million shares to offset shareholder dilution caused by the capital increases for staff. This results in a pay-out ratio of 59%. We reconfirm our policy to pay out at least 50% of our consolidated net profit to our shareholders in the form of dividends and in coupons on the additional tier-1 instrument.
Our success is based on the trust that our clients continue to place in our company. I’d like to explicitly thank all our clients for that trust and to assure them that we are more focused than ever in our efforts to become the reference in bank-insurance in all our core countries. In the years ahead, we will build on the momentum of previous years, thanks to our successful client-centric bank-insurance model, underpinned by our very solid liquidity position and strong capital base and supported by our 42 000-strong workforce worldwide.’, comments Johan Thijs, KBC Group CEO.
Financial highlights for the fourth quarter of 2017:
- Both our banking and insurance franchises in our core markets continued to perform well and the recently acquired Bulgarian companies, UBB and Interlease, also contributed 13 million euros to the net result.
- Lending to our clients went up 1% quarter-on-quarter and 5% year-on-year, with year-on-year increases in all business units. Deposits from our clients rose 2% quarter-on-quarter, and increased 8% year-on-year, with growth in all business units. Of the year-on-year volume growth, 1 percentage point (for lending) and 2 percentage points (for deposits) was attributable to the inclusion of UBB/Interlease in the figures.
- Excluding the dealing room effect, net interest income roughly stabilised quarter-on-quarter and increased by 1.5% year-on-year. The effect of the persistent low reinvestment yields and negative pressure on commercial loan margins was mitigated by good loan volume growth, lower funding costs, the positive impact of rate hikes in the Czech Republic and (year-on-year) the positive effect of the consolidation of UBB/Interlease.
- In our non-life insurance activities, higher premium income was offset by increased technical charges (the third quarter had included significant releases) and a decline in the reinsurance result quarter-on-quarter. For full-year 2017 technical income from our non-life insurance activities ended 12% up on the previous year leading to a very strong non-life combined ratio for full-year 2017 of 88%. Sales of our life insurance products increased 45% quarter-on-quarter, and were up 13% on the last quarter of 2016.
- Our net fee and commission income remained strong, increasing year-on-year by 14%, thanks mainly to our asset management activities, higher securities-related fees and the inclusion of UBB/Interlease in the figures. It was up 5% on the seasonally lower figure for the third quarter.
- All other income items combined were up 13% quarter-on-quarter, but down 20% year-on-year. This was largely accounted for in both cases by variations in the level of trading and fair value income and by an additional provision of 61.5 million euros related to the industry wide review of tracker rate mortgages originated in Ireland before 2009.
- Our cost/income ratio for full year 2017 improved to a very good 54% (from 55% in 2016). In 4Q2017, our operating expenses (excluding bank taxes) were seasonally up 9% quarter-on-quarter and 5% year-on-year.
- The quarter benefited from a 30-million-euro release of loan loss provisions, thanks mainly to a 52 million euro release in Ireland (resulting in a 215 million euros release in full-year 2017). Consequently, our cost of credit for full year 2017 amounted to a very favourable -0.06% (a negative figure indicates a positive impact on the results).
- The net result was adversely impacted by the one-off, upfront negative effect of 211 million euros due to the Belgian corporate income tax reform. Going forward, however, this will have a recurring positive impact on income taxes of the Belgian entities.
- Our liquidity position remained strong, as did our capital base, with a common equity ratio of 16.3% (fully loaded, Danish compromise).
Analysis of the year-to-date period (FY2017):
The net result for 2017 amounted to 2 575 million euros, compared to 2 427 million euros for 2016.
Note: the result for the12 months of 2017 includes the net result of 27 million euros generated by the recently acquired UBB and Interlease entities in Bulgaria in the period July through December.
Highlights (compared to FY2016):
- Somewhat lower net interest income (-3% to 4 121 million euros), mainly due to the lower contribution of the dealing room (more than compensated by an increase in trading and fair value income) and insurance. Net interest income excluding dealing room effect and the contribution of UBB/Interlease stabilised. The volume of deposits increased by 8% and lending went up by 5%. Of this volume growth, about 1 percentage point (for lending) and 2 percentage points (for deposits) was attributable to the inclusion of UBB/Interlease in the figures for the second half of the year. The net interest margin came to 1.85% for 2017 as a whole, down on the 1.92% recorded for 2016.
- A higher contribution made by the technical insurance result (+46% to 640 million euros). This was due to the non-life insurance activities, where premium income and the reinsurance result both went up and technical charges remained stable (despite the one-off release of provisions in Belgium in the third quarter), and to the life insurance activities, which – among other things – also benefited from a release of provisions in Belgium. The non-life combined ratio for full year 2017 stood at an excellent 88%. Life insurance sales were down by 11%, due entirely to a decrease in the sale of guaranteed interest products.
- Significantly higher net fee and commission income (+18% to 1 707 million euros) owing primarily to our asset management services. At the end of December 2017, total assets under management stood at 219 billion euros, a year-on-year increase of 3% largely because of a positive price performance.
- A higher level of all other income items combined (1 232 million euros). This included a significantly higher net result from financial instruments at fair value (+58% to 856 million euros), higher net realised gains from available-for-sale assets (+5% to 199 million euros), a slightly lower level of dividend income (-18% to 63 million euros) and lower other net income (-56% to 114 million euros), due in part to the booking of an additional provision relating to an industry wide review of tracker rate mortgages originated in Ireland before 2009 (totalling 116 million euros).
- Our cost/income ratio for full year 2017 improved to a very good 54% (from 55% in 2016). Operating expenses (excluding bank taxes) increased by 125 million euros (3,5%) year-on-year. Taking into account a doubling of investments in digitalisation through operating expenses (from approximately 125 million euros for full year 2016 to approximately 250 million euros for full year 2017) and the 40 million euros arising from the inclusion of UBB/Interlease, this clearly proves that costs are firmly under control.
- Much lower loan loss impairment charges (from a net addition of 126 million euros in 2016 to a net release of 87 million euros in 2017), essentially because of significant impairment releases in Ireland. As a result, the credit cost ratio for the whole group stood at an excellent -0.06% (a negative figure indicates a positive impact on the results).
- The net result for 2017 breaks down as follows: 1 575 million euros for the Belgium Business Unit (+10% on the figure for 2016), 702 million euros for the Czech Republic Business Unit (+18%), 444 million euros for the International Markets Business Unit (+4%) and -146 million euros for the Group Centre (down 118 million euros). The above result for the International Markets Business Unit breaks down into 167 million euros for Ireland (-9%, due essentially to the additional provisions for the tracker rate mortgage review), 146 million euros for Hungary (+13% on the figure for 2016), 79 million euros for Slovakia (-14%) and 50 million euros for Bulgaria (+127%, due to the inclusion in the figures of UBB/Interlease as of the third quarter of 2017).