12 Feb 2020

ASB Bank posts $599m half year net profit

2:49 pm on 12 February 2020

ASB Bank has posted a flat half year result as a slower economy restrained lending and low interest rates dented margins.

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Photo: RNZ / DOM THOMAS

The bank's profit for the six months ended December was $599 million, compared with $630m the year before.

However, the result included a $28 million loss on an asset sale.

Chief executive Vittoria Shortt said the result was consistent with lower growth, a cautious business sector and uncertain global outlook.

Lending to consumers and businesses was up slightly, but the bank reduced rural lending.

Shortt said rural customers were getting on top of debt.

"We've had really good conversations with our rural customers to make sure they're making the most of record commodity prices and record low interest rates to really pay down debt to make sure that they've got resilient settings."

The need to encourage depositors saw the bank cut its margins to lessen the effect of low interest rates.

"We definitely balance the trade-off of all of our customers when we think about pricing changes and you will have seen us be very careful about our pricing changes on deposits last year."

ASB's bad debts fell but its costs rose as it invested in new services and technology.

Shortt said going forward a slow-growth economy was expected, but market fundamentals remained solid.

"Retail sales are up business confidence has improved and we particularly like the commodity prices. There's a lot of global watch-outs, trade negotiations are far from over, we've got a couple of elections coming up and we're particularly monitoring the coronavirus to see how that unfolds.

"I would say our business settings are conservative so we can cope with whatever comes."