December 20, 2018 / 9:24 PM / 7 months ago

Danske Bank ends tough year with profit warning

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danske Bank (DANSKE.CO), at the center of an international investigation into alleged money laundering, cut its 2018 profit forecast for the second time this year, citing challenging market conditions on financial markets.

FILE PHOTO: Danske Bank sign is seen at the bank's Estonian branch in Tallinn, Estonia August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

The bank’s shares fell 3.7 percent on Friday to their lowest level since early 2014 after the bank issued the warning late on Thursday. Danske’s share price has halved since March, mostly because investors fear a large fine from U.S. authorities over the money laundering case.

Authorities in Denmark, Estonia, Britain and the United States are investigating payments totaling 200 billion euros ($229 billion) made through Danske’s tiny Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.

Denmark’s biggest lender said it expects net profit for the year of around 15 billion Danish crowns ($2.3 billion), down from the 16 billion-17 billion crowns it had previously forecast.

The revision was made “in view of the challenging conditions on the financial markets in the fourth quarter of 2018”, which had had “an adverse effect on net trading income on the rates markets as well as on performance fees”, the bank said.

“The revision to the outlook is mainly the result of worsening conditions during the fourth quarter in the financial markets,” Chief Financial Officer Christian Baltzer said in a statement.

“The underlying business performance is still good,” he said.

The bank had already cut its net profit forecast from 18 billion-20 billion crowns in September, after saying it would donate the 1.5 billion it had earned on suspicious transactions through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.

Danske Bank’s then chief executive Thomas Borgen resigned in September after an investigation revealed payments totaling 200 billion euros ($229 billion) through its small Estonian branch, many of which the bank said were suspicious.

A major concern for investors has been whether the money laundering case would hit the bank’s underlying business.

“The real test for the bank is whether it will be able to hold on to their customers in this fourth quarter and the first quarter of 2019,” Sydbank analyst Mikkel Emil Jensen said.

“And it seems they’ve been able to do that in the fourth quarter, to keep up the business momentum,” he said.

The bank said that its non-core unit would be hit by a 200 million crown value adjustment, while the outlook for all other items on its financial statement, including net interest income, was unchanged.

($1 = 6.5072 Danish crowns)

($1 = 0.8724 euros)

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Teis Jensen; Editing by Adrian Croft and Susan Fenton

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