OCBC faces shareholders questions on NPLs, executive pay at AGM

SINGAPORE - OCBC faced questions on asset quality outlook and rising costs at its latest annual general meeting on Friday (Apr 28).

All three Singapore banks were impacted by their non-performing loan (NPL) exposure to the oil and gas sector.

This remained a main concern for OCBC shareholders attending the AGM at the Sands Expo.

Chief executive Samuel Tsien struck a cautious tone in response, noting that he does not yet see a consistent rise in oil prices and hence he cannot say the worst of the oil and gas troubles have passed.

OCBC's NPL ratio stood at 1.26 per cent in the fourth quarter last year. Within that, 0.61 percentage points were incurred by oil and gas loans, Mr Tsien said.

In terms of the overall economic outlook, chairman Ooi Sang Kuang said he's "cautiously optimistic" following signs of higher growth emerging in the European Union and even China.

But Mr Tsien had his reservation. While Singapore has shown signs of economic growth, that growth is still sectorial, he said, adding: "We will not be able to say that Singapore will have fairly strong growth this year."

Several other shareholders questioned whether OCBC has plans to cut senior management salaries to better manage operating expenses, which rose 3 per cent last year to S$3.79 billion. They pointed to DBS' move to cut senior executive pay by 13 per cent last year, as revealed by its CEO Piyush Gupta earlier in the week.

Mr Ooi said OCBC had cut senior executives' variable compensation while fixed salary increments were also slowed down. No figure was provided.

All nine resolutions were passed at the AGM, which had an attendance of over 1,200 people.