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Handelsbanken reports record profit in fourth quarter

Randy Mancini 2 Feb 9
FILE PHOTO: Headquarters of the Handelsbanken in Stockholm
FILE PHOTO: A view of the headquarters of the Handelsbanken in Stockholm, Sweden, May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

February 9, 2022

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedish banking group Handelsbanken reported record results on Wednesday as rising income, lower loan losses and measures to curb costs lifted its fourth-quarter operating earnings.

“The result for the quarter is the best in the 150-year history of the bank,” CEO Carina Akerstrom told a news conference.

Operating earnings rose to 6.37 billion crowns ($697.43 million) from 5.38 billion a year earlier.

“However, including its Danish and Finnish operations, which the bank is due to exit, the rival of Swedbank, SEB and Finland’s Nordea reported an operating profit of 6.53 billion crowns in the quarter, above expectations.

The mean analyst forecast, according to Refinitiv Eikon data, was 6.40 billion.

The bank proposed dividend for 2021 of 5.00 crowns per share, below the 7.28 crowns expected by analysts the data showed.

Shares in the bank were down 1.3% at 0919 GMT, underperforming the European banking index, which was flat.

Credit Suisse analysts said in a note that the dividend was a disappointment and would likely weigh on the share price.

A strong recovery for the Swedish economy from the initial waves of the pandemic was jarred by the onset of Omicron late last year, but booster shots and milder symptoms have allowed authorities to quickly drop restrictions, nearly all of which were lifted on Wednesday.

Handelsbanken, whose main markets are Sweden, Norway and Britain, said its net interest income – including its Danish and Finnish arms – rose to 8.11 billion crowns from 7.86 billion, topping the 7.89 billion expected by analysts.

Commission income, boosted by brisk business and M&A activity over the past year, climbed to 3.47 billion crowns from 2.88 billion and beating the 3.11 billion seen by analysts.

Handelsbanken, whose low-risk, decentralised business model helped it weather the pandemic well, said net credit losses narrowed to virtually zero while spending rose slightly, primarily due to development costs booked in the quarter.

($1 = 9.1335 Swedish crowns)

(Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Johan Ahlander, editing by Louise Heavens and Jason Neely)