BNP Paribas first-quarter profit falls on back of trading weakness in Europe

PARIS (Reuters) - BNP Paribas BNPP.PA, France's biggest bank, reported a 17 percent decline in quarterly net profit, in line with expectations, as a weaker dollar and sluggish fixed income trading impacted investment banking revenues.

FILE PHOTO: A BNP Paribas logo is seen at a bank in Paris, France, April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

First-quarter net income fell to 1.57 billion euros ($1.9 billion), in line with analysts’ estimates of 1.55 billion euros, according to a Reuters poll of 5 analysts.

Revenues fell 4.4 percent to 10.8 billion euros, compared to 11.04 billion expected by analysts. Revenues at its corporate and institutional bank were also down 9.8 percent.

“Even if the market context was lackluster in Europe compared to the first quarter 2017, the results are in line with the trajectory of the 2020 plan and the achievement of its targets,” said chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe.

A pick-up in volatility in the middle of the first quarter resulted in a wait-and-see attitude by clients who traded rates and foreign exchange in Europe less actively in contrast to equity trading that performed well in the U.S.

Revenue from equity and prime services at BNP Paribas rose 19.4 percent, but fixed income (FICC) activities declined 31.4 percent.

BNP Paribas also blamed the drop in profits on an unfavorable foreign exchange effect and a high comparative base in the first quarter of 2017, when a significant level of corporate banking fees were booked.

Earlier on Friday, BNP Paribas' rival Societe Generale SOGN.PA had also reported a 13.4 percent fall in revenue at its investment bank.

BNP Paribas is aiming to become more profitable while also saving money to invest heavily in digital infrastructure, on both investment banking and retail banking fronts.

It sees the international financial services division - a unit that includes consumer finance, retail banking in emerging markets and the United States, as well as insurance and wealth management - as its growth engine. That division saw a 3.8 percent rise in quarterly revenue.

This helped outweigh weakness in BNP Paribas’ home French market, where revenues declined 1.6 percent, due partly to pressures on its loan businesses.

($1 = 0.8344 euros)

Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta