The market may not be showing much confidence in banking stocks currently, but DBS Group chief executive Piyush Gupta and other senior management evidently do not share in the pessimism. In the past two days, they have bought over 500,000 DBS shares amounting to more than $7 million.
For Mr Gupta, an Singapore Exchange filing showed that he bought 200,000 DBS shares on Monday at $13.88 apiece, or close to $2.8 million in total. The filing also showed that on top of the purchase, Mr Gupta had received 148,068 shares as part of a share award scheme.
A second filing showed he received another 101,059 shares under the scheme. These two batches of shares, worth $3.34 million based on DBS' closing price of $13.40 yesterday, were credited into his account as part of his remuneration.
With the market purchase, Mr Gupta is putting his money where his mouth is. That very morning, he had said at DBS' results briefing that the recent market sell-off had been overdone, and that banking stocks were undervalued.
The bank is operating in a challenging environment that "will continue to stay challenging as we go into next year", he told media and analysts at the briefing. However, he added: "I do think the market panic is overdone. This is not a Lehman moment. It's quite clear to me that we're very very far from a Lehman kind of crisis."
Banking stocks are trading at valuations lower than just after the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008, which precipitated the financial crisis, he noted.
However, such panic is unfounded, he said, as Singapore's financial system is resilient enough to withstand the challenges ahead.
The latest quarterly results also reflect the resilience of the local banking sector, he noted.
DBS itself beat analyst expectations by posting a 20 per cent rise in its fourth-quarter net profit to $1 billion. Net profit for the full year, including a one-off item of $136 million, rose to a record $4.5 billion.
United Overseas Bank and OCBC Bank also posted healthy results.
But banking stocks continue to suffer alongside a broader market sell-down. DBS shares fell 29 cents yesterday to $13.40, down 19.7 per cent so far this year, while OCBC dropped six cents to $8.02 and UOB slipped 32 cents to $17.01.