PARIS (Reuters) - BNP Paribas on Thursday reported higher first-quarter net profits, supported by a recovery at its corporate and investment banking division which benefited from a more favorable market environment.
Weak financial markets had hit this business in the fourth quarter of 2018 when revenues fell sharply to 650 million euros, but in the first quarter they jumped to 1.52 billion.
Revenue from fixed income, commodities and currencies were up 32 percent from the first quarter 2018, a stronger performance than at some other big investment banks, such as Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.
“Corporate and institutional banking marked an upturn in client activity despite a still unfavorable market context at the beginning of the quarter,” Chief Executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said in a video on BNP Paribas’ website.
The bank said clients had returned in the last month of the quarter.
“The division was well prepared for this upturn,” Bonnafe said.
In February, BNP Paribas announced plans to cut 350 million euros in costs from the corporate and investment bank after the weak fourth quarter.
“A good set of results driven by a good dynamic on the top line, good cost management delivering positive jaws in most divisions,” analysts at Jefferies said, keeping a “buy” rating on the shares.
BNP Paribas’ shares were up by around 1 percent in early session trading.
Major European banks like BNP Paribas have struggled to drive profitability because low interest rates have constrained returns from retail banking, while corporate and investment banking is vulnerable to financial market volatility.
The bank’s net profit rose 22 percent from the same period in 2018 to 1.92 billion euros ($2.15 billion). Analysts polled by Infront Data for Reuters expected a net profit of 1.71 billion euros.
Overall revenues rose 3.2 percent to 11.14 billion euros, above analysts’ forecasts for revenues of 10.65 billion.
BNP Paribas also booked an 838 million euro capital gain on the sale of a stake in Indian insurer SBI Life.
The French bank said it expected its cost-cutting plan to have a positive impact on its bottom line in coming quarters, as savings would outpace other costs.
In the remaining quarters of this year, savings will outpace costs and in 2020 BNP Paribas said it expected to book 3.3 billion worth of savings and no costs linked to transforming its business.
Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Jane Merriman