Net earnings came in at PLN 244.6m for 4Q12, down 2.7% q/q, up 10.6% y/y, above our end of the range expectations of PLN 234.5m and much above the consensus estimate of PLN 218.7m (range from PLN 200m – PLN 235m, source: PAP). Stronger-than-expected cost containment and much lower net provisioning were main reasons for outperformance. The bottom-line was still helped by strong trading income (PLN 62m booked as trading gain on securities portfolio). We see the results as supportive for the stock price. However the reaction should be muted by concerns over still weak performance in non-mortgage lending volumes.
Core revenues came below expectations on both net interest income (-5.1% q/q) with net interest margin down 27bp q/q to 3.51%, and underlying net fee income declining 2.5% q/q. Net loans increased by 2.6% q/q and was driven mainly by corporate loans (+3.6% q/q and mortgages (+7.4% q/q), while non-mortgage lending continue to disappoint (-1.0% q/q).
Operating expense containment was stronger than our optimistic assumptions of PLN 330m and came at PLN 314.6m (-6.6% q/q and -
12.2% y/y). This was supported by recent restructuring and branch closures and was mainly attributable to declining non-staff expenses (including depreciation) which declined 6.6% q/q on lower telecommunication and hardware fees. Staff costs were flat year-on-year.
Net provisioning came at unsustainably low level at PLN 1.0m (-95.4% q/q and -66.3% y/y) in 4Q12. Cost of risk declined to just 2bp of average gross loans from 54bp reported in 3Q12. Bank Handlowy relisted provisioning of PLN 2.7m in retail segment, while provisioning in corporate segment was also very low at 16bp over average gross loans, compared to 69bp in 3Q12. NPL ratio declined to 7.5% in 4Q12 from 7.8% in 3Q12, while coverage ratio remains broadly stable at around 80%, above the average levels.