KBC Group: strong result of 691 million euros in the third quarter

Against the background of sustained economic expansion, only moderately rising inflation, a stronger euro and stable low interest rates, KBC turned in a strong performance in the third quarter of 2017, posting a net profit of 691 million euros. In the quarter under review, our core businesses once again performed well, while costs remained under control and the level of loan loss impairment remained very low. Moreover, the recently acquired Bulgarian companies also contributed positively to net profit. Adding the third quarter result to the similarly very good results for the first two quarters of the year brings the net result for the first nine months of 2017 to 2 176 million euros, significantly up on the 1 742 million euros recorded in the corresponding period of 2016. Our solvency and liquidity positions remained strong too. In line with our dividend policy, we will pay an interim dividend of 1 euro per share on 17 November 2017.

Financial highlights for the third quarter of 2017
  •     Both our existing banking and insurance franchises in our core markets continued to perform well, while the recently acquired Bulgarian companies, UBB and Interlease, also contributed 14 million euros to the net result. Our group result for the quarter under review accordingly came to a strong 691 million euros.
  •     Lending to our clients went up 1% quarter-on-quarter and 6% year-on-year, with increases in all business units. Deposits from our clients remained flat quarter-on-quarter, but increased 12% year-on-year with growth in all business units. Of the year-on-year volume growth, some 1.4 percentage points (for lending) and 1.9 percentage points (for deposits) was attributable to the first-time inclusion of UBB/Interlease in the figures.
  •     Net interest income - our main source of income - was up 1% on the previous quarter and down just 2% on its year-earlier level, thanks largely to the positive effect of the first-time consolidation of UBB/Interlease. The net interest margin came to 1.83%, down 3 basis points quarter-on-quarter and 7 basis points year-on-year.
  •     Higher premium income, a better reinsurance result and a one-off release of provisions in Belgium boosted technical income from our non-life insurance activities by 23% year-on-year. Consequently, our non-life combined ratio for the first nine months of 2017 ended up at an exceptionally good 83%. Sales of our life insurance products dropped just slightly quarter-on-quarter, but were down 10% on their level  a year ago.
  •     Our net fee and commission income remained strong, increasing year-on-year by 11%, thanks mainly to our asset management activities and the first-time inclusion of UBB/Interlease in the figures. Compared to the previous quarter, however, there was a decrease of 5% which partly reflects the effect of the holiday season.
  •     All other income items combined fell 34% quarter-on-quarter, but were up 49% year-on-year. This was largely accounted for in both cases by variations in the level of trading and fair value income and a negative item of 54 million euros in the quarter under review (related to an ongoing industry wide review of the tracker rate mortgage products originated in Ireland before 2009).
  •     Our operating expenses were more or less flat quarter-on-quarter and up 2% year-on-year. Excluding UBB/Interlease, costs decreased by 2% quarter-on-quarter, but remained unchanged year-on-year. As a consequence, our cost/income ratio for the first nine months of 2017 stood at a solid 54%.
  •     At 15 million euros, loan loss impairment charges in the quarter under review remained very low. They included a net impairment release of 26 million euros in Ireland and generally low levels of additional impairment charges in all other core countries. Consequently, our cost of credit amounted to a very favourable -0.05% in the first nine months of 2017 (a negative figure indicates a positive impact on profit).
  •     Our liquidity position remained strong, as did our capital base, with a common equity ratio of 15.9% (fully loaded, Danish compromise).

Johan Thijs, our group CEO, comments:
'We have delivered yet another strong performance in the third quarter. A number of factors were instrumental in achieving this, including growth of net interest income, solid net fee and commission income and a high level of insurance income thanks in part to some releases of provisions. Moreover, our costs remained under control, and loan loss impairment charges continued to be very low. On top of that, our recently acquired Bulgarian entities UBB and Interlease contributed 14 million euros to this quarter's result.
Moreover, the quarterly result was also influenced by an ongoing industry wide review of the tracker rate mortgage products originated in Ireland before 2009, for which a negative 54 million euros in this quarter has been booked.
All this resulted in 691 million euros of net profit being posted in the quarter under review. Combined with the 630 million euros recorded in the first quarter, and the exceptionally strong 855 million euros in the second quarter, this brings our net result for the first nine months of 2017 to 2 176 million euros, up 25% on the figure for the corresponding period of 2016.
We continued to work relentlessly on executing our strategy, which has proven very successful to date. We are on track as regards our digital agenda, and are working on further developing our bank-insurance business and on supporting the local economies and clients in the countries in which we operate. We are ahead of our agenda on the operational integration of the recently acquired UBB and Interlease entities in Bulgaria, which will make us a leading player in that core country too.
We are truly grateful for the trust that our clients place in our company and our employees, and remain fully committed and focused in our efforts to become the reference in client-centric bank-insurance in all our core countries.'  

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