Big bank pain to continue in H1 earnings

Mounting compensation costs, tighter margins and royal commission-related charges are all on the agenda as three of Australia’s big four banks embark on what is expected to be a “messy” round of first-half earnings over the next few days.

ANZ kicks of proceedings on Wednesday and with analysts are tipping lenders to try block out the “large and lumpy” items associated with years of wrongdoing by focusing on underlying operations.

“Expect another messy set of numbers by the banks given the impact of asset divestments, remediation charges and Royal Commission expenses in both this half and prior periods,” UBS said in a note.

Commonwealth Bank, which operates on a different calendar to its big four rivals, in February reported a 2.1 per cent decline in cash profit to $4.676 billion, weighed down by slowing property markets, tighter lending, and costs from Kenneth Hayne’s inquiry.

Similar headwinds are anticipated for ANZ when it reports on Wednesday, with NAB and Westpac to follow on Thursday and Monday respectively.

UBS said ANZ, which had flagged $421 million in remediation as of September, is the leader when it comes to improving its expense verification and should report a “cleaner” first-half cash profit of $3.32 billion.

That would be down about five per cent on $3.5 billion a year ago.

ANZ’s interim dividend is expected to remain flat at 80 cents per share.

NAB, which could be reporting its last result before it appoints a permanent chief executive to replace the departed Andrew Thorburn, this month flagged an extra $525 million after-tax hit through new customer remediation costs – bringing total charges to $1.1 billion as of March 31.

The bank is also tipped to cut its interim dividend, which would cap a horror six months where it was singled out for special treatment in the Hayne report, leading to the resignation of Mr Thorburn and chairman Ken Henry in February.

UBS expcts Westpac, which set aside another $260 million for customer remediation in March for a total $659 million so far, to report a first-half cash profit of $3.29 billion, which would be down 22 per cent on a year ago.

Fees-for-no-service refunds are yet to come for Westpac though its interim dividend is expected to remain flat at 94 cents per share.

AAP

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