DBS achieves earnings of SGD 2.06 billion in 2008 - well-positioned to weather uncertainties ahead with strengthened balance sheet and disciplined cost management

Singapore.13 Feb 2009

Fourth-quarter earnings of SGD 383 million underpinned by higher interest margins and deposit inflows


Singapore, 13 Feb 2009 - DBS Group Holdings today announced that it earned SGD 2.06 billion in 2008 amid dislocations in financial markets and an economic slowdown. The results were 17% below the previous year. While non-interest income fell and credit costs rose, continued customer loan growth and deposit inflows resulted in net interest income reaching a record.

Measures were taken during the year to strengthen the Group against the growing economic uncertainty. The tier-1 capital base was boosted by a SGD 4 billion equity rights issue and a SGD 1.5 billion preference share issue. Higher general allowances were set aside to buffer the balance sheet against potential asset quality deterioration, and total allowance coverage remained comfortably above 100%. Cost efficiency was enhanced through an organisation streamlining that included the merger of several business as well as support units to improve workflow and productivity.

For the fourth quarter, DBS earned SGD 383 million, 5% below the previous quarter and 31% lower than a year ago. The results were in line with the guidance given in the trading update released on 22 December 2008.

One-time items taken during the year amounted to a net charge of SGD 127 million, of which SGD 88 million was taken in the fourth quarter that included restructuring and impairment costs. Including these items, net profit would be SGD 1.93 billion for 2008 and SGD 295 million for the fourth quarter.

Customer franchise continued to grow in 2008

Full-year net interest income grew 5% to SGD 4.30 billion from customer business volume expansion. Customer loans rose 17% to SGD 126.5 billion as DBS continued to be supportive of customers' financing needs during the year. More than half the growth was from Singapore-dollar loans, which increased 25% and resulted in DBS' market share increasing from 18% at end-2007 to 20% at end-2008.

Customer deposits rose 11% to SGD 169.9 billion, reflecting depositors' confidence in DBS' financial strength. The deposit mix also improved as the proportion of savings and current accounts increased from 46% at end-2007 to 54% at end-2008.

Non-interest income was lower. Net fee income declined 13% to SGD 1.27 billion due to a fall in market activities such as wealth management, stockbroking and investment banking. This was partially offset by higher revenues from loan syndication, trade and remittances and credit card spending. Trading income fell 76% to SGD 23 million as losses from credit activities partially offset gains from foreign exchange and interest rate activities. Gains from the sale of financial investments fell 18% to SGD 367 million from reduced profit-taking opportunities.

Enhanced cost discipline resulted in expenses remaining stable at SGD 2.61 billion, alleviating pressure from slowing revenues on the cost-income ratio, which rose slightly from 42% in 2007 to 43%. Staff costs declined 9% as bonuses were reduced. A 10% increase in non-staff costs was due mainly to a SGD 70 million charge for potential compensation to certain customers who had bought structured investments and a SGD 50 million charge for a technology write-off.

Allowances rose 82% to SGD 784 million. While general allowances increased 16% to SGD 234 million to strengthen the balance sheet, most of the increase was due to higher specific loan allowances for private banking and SME loans. Specific loan allowances rose from SGD 92 million or 9 basis points in 2007 to SGD 419 million or 35 basis points.

The non-performing loan rate rose from 1.1% to 1.5% due to weakening economic conditions. Total non-performing assets, including debt securities and contingent liabilities, rose 66% to SGD 2.4 billion, of which 36% were still current in interest and principal payments and were being classified for prudential reasons. Allowance coverage stood at 114% of non-performing assets and at 176% if collateral was considered, putting DBS in a strong position to weather asset quality risks ahead. CDO investments were adequately provided for with 93% coverage for the ABS portfolio and 27% for the non-ABS portfolio.

Return on equity fell to 10.1% from 12.7% while return on assets declined to 0.84% from 1.15%. The capital adequacy ratio was healthy at 14.0%, with tier-1 at 10.1%. If the rights issue which was completed in January 2009 was taken into account, the capital adequacy ratio would have risen to a pro-forma 16.2% with tier-1 at 12.2%.

Fourth-quarter performance in line with trading update

Fourth-quarter net interest income grew 4% from the previous quarter to SGD 1.12 billion. Interest margins rose five basis points from the previous quarter to 2.04% due to better management of asset yields and deposit costs. Customer deposits continued to increase, rising 2% from the previous quarter, while customer loans fell 1% as repayments in foreign currency loans more than offset a 4% increase in Singaporedollar loans.

Recent non-interest income trends persisted. Net fee income fell 17% from the previous quarter to SGD 263 million as market-related activities weakened further. There was also a softening in other activities such as loan syndication. Trading performance remained weak, recording a net loss of SGD 25 million due to credit activities. However, gains from financial investments improved from the previous quarter to SGD 104 million, which enabled total non-interest income to rise 9% from the previous quarter to SGD 356 million.

Expenses rose 19% from the previous quarter to SGD 689 million due to a write-back of bonus accruals in the third quarter. The expenses also included a SGD 29 million technology write-off charge.

Total allowances fell 16% from the previous quarter to SGD 269 million as declines in general allowances and in specific allowances for securities were partially offset by higher specific loan allowances, which rose to SGD 224 million or 69 basis points from SGD 106 million or 34 basis points. The higher specific loan allowances were due mainly to increased charges for private banking and SME loans.

The amount of risk-weighted assets fell from SGD 190.2 billion in the previous quarter to SGD 182.7 billion as certain trading positions were managed down. The decline in risk-weighted assets boosted the capital adequacy ratio from 13.4% in the previous quarter to 14.0%.

DBS Chairman Koh Boon Hwee said, "DBS is well placed to weather the uncertainties of 2009, having taken early action to fortify our balance sheet and streamline the organisation for greater efficiency last year. As one of the best capitalised banks in Asia, we are determined to strengthen our franchise in the region and stand by our customers during these challenging times."

DBS had indicated during the rights issue that it would pay the same absolute cash dividend for the fourth quarter as it would have done had there not been a rights issue. Accordingly, with the rights shares having been issued on 30 January 2009 and ranking equally for dividends as pre-existing shares, the Board will recommend, for approval at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting, a fourth-quarter dividend of 14 cents per share over the enlarged share base.

About DBS

DBS is one of the largest financial services groups in Asia with operations in 16 markets. Headquartered in Singapore, DBS is a well-capitalised bank with "AA-" and "Aa1" credit ratings that are among the highest in the Asia-Pacific region.

As a bank that specialises in Asia, DBS leverages its deep understanding of the region, local culture and insights to serve and build lasting relationships with its clients. DBS provides the full range of services in corporate, SME, consumer and wholesale banking activities across Asia and the Middle East. The bank is committed to expanding its pan- Asia franchise by leveraging its growing presence in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to intermediate the increasing trade and investment flows between these markets. Likewise, DBS is focused on extending its end-to-end services to facilitate capital within fast-growing countries in Indonesia and India.

DBS acknowledges the passion, commitment and can-do spirit in each of its 15,000 staff, representing over 30 nationalities. For more information, please visit www.dbs.com.