ANZ Bank annual profit falls to 5-year low

The logo of the ANZ Banking Group is displayed in the window of a newly opened branch in central Sydney, Australia. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), the country's third-biggest bank, reported its lowest full-year earnings since 2011 after taking A$1.1 billion (S$1.17 billion) in charges mainly related to restructuring its business.

Unaudited cash profit, which excludes one-time items, for the year ended Sept 30 fell to A$5.9 billion from A$7.2 billion reported a year earlier, ANZ said in a statement to the stock exchange on Thursday (Nov 3). That compares with the A$6.1 billion mean estimate of 15 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

ANZ Bank's earnings are under pressure as it restructures its businesses at a time when higher funding costs, narrower margins and rising bad-debt charges are dogging Australia's banks. Since taking over in January, chief executive officer Shayne Elliott has sought to wind back ANZ's lower-returning businesses in Asia, a legacy of his predecessor Mike Smith's expansion into the region.

"We have a clear strategy and a consistent focus on the simplification of our business and actively rebalancing our portfolio," Mr Elliott said in the statement.

The company said that it is also exploring the possible sale of life insurance, advice and superannuation and investments businesses in Australia.

Earlier this week, Mr Elliott announced the sale of the bank's retail and wealth-management businesses in five Asian markets to Singapore's DBS Group Holdings Ltd and signalled that more divestments were to come.

The bank's net interest margin - a key measure of lending profitability - fell to 2 per cent from 2.04 per cent the previous year.

Bad debt charges rose 62 per cent to A$1.96 billion. The bank said this was mainly due to a rise in resource-related exposures as well as the settlement of the Oswal legal dispute.

ANZ, which cut its dividend in May for the first time since 2009, will pay a final dividend of 80 Australian cents a share. That resulted in a full year payout of A$1.60, down from A$1.81 in 2015.

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