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Singapore banks' third-quarter profits skid but beat market estimates

FILE PHOTO: People walk past a DBS branch in Singapore October 8, 2019. Picture taken October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim/File Photo

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s top lenders, DBS Group Holdings Ltd and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd, reported declines in quarterly profits on Thursday, hit by lower net interest income, but the results still came in above analysts’ estimates.

The city-state’s banks have been under pressure due to low interest rates and weak growth in pandemic-hit markets in Asia, while they also soak up bad loans as regulators prepare to ease conditions for billions of dollars in lending moratoriums.

DBS, Southeast Asia’s biggest lender, posted a 20% fall in net profit to S$1.30 billion ($951 million) from S$1.63 billion a year earlier. The result was above an average estimate of S$1.17 billion from four analysts, according to Refinitiv data.

Chief Executive Officer Piyush Gupta said in a statement that he expected a strong economic rebound in Asia from a low base to support mid-single-digit loan growth and double-digit fee income growth in 2021. That would help partly offset the full-year impact of lower net interest margins, Gupta said.

The bank’s net interest margin, a key profitability gauge, weakened to 1.53% in the latest quarter from 1.9%. Allowances for credit and other losses more than doubled to S$554 million.

Singapore’s No. 2 ranked lender OCBC said the full economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic was probably still to be felt.

Group CEO Samuel Tsien said that while the third quarter “saw a recovery from the trough of the previous quarter, we may not have seen the full extent of the lagging economic impact of the crisis yet, which will have more visibility next year.”

OCBC’s quarterly profit dropped 12% to S$1.03 billion from S$1.17 billion a year earlier. But this again beat an average profit estimate of S$864.9 million from four analysts, according to data from Refinitiv.

($1 = 1.3569 Singapore dollars)

Reporting by Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Kenneth Maxwell