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KUALA LUMPUR, May 28, 2015:

Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank), Malaysia’s No.1 lender by assets, posted a better than expected 6.3% rise in quarterly profit on higher fee income and robust loans growth but gave a cautious outlook due to the launch of a new consumer tax.

Net profit for January-March was RM1.7 billion compared with RM1.6 billion a year ago, Maybank said in a stock exchange filing.

This is higher than the average RM1.58 billion estimate of two analysts, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Maybank, which is also Southeast Asia’s fourth-biggest bank, faces a challenging environment in the region this year as economic growth slows and currencies depreciate.

At home, the lender sees weakening private consumption growth in the coming quarters, due to the implementation of a goods and services tax (GST) in April and the persistence of high household leverage. Smaller rival CIMB Group Holdings Bhd announced last week a 45.6% drop in first-quarter net profit, dragged by higher corporate loan provisions in Indonesia.

“The rest of the year is expected to remain challenging and we are closely monitoring regional developments, particularly the level of business activity post implementation of GST in Malaysia,” group president and CEO Abdul Farid Alias said in a statement.

Maybank’s first-quarter revenue rose 9.9% to RM9.18 billion. Loans for the quarter expanded 14.3% year on year, led by its international markets which grew 19.4%, according to the statement.

Shares of Maybank ended the midday break 0.6% lower at RM9.09 per share, prior to the earnings announcement.

They have dropped 8.1% over the past year, underperforming the benchmark stock index, which declined 6.0%. Rival CIMB has dropped 23.2% over the same period.

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