Monday, 20 May 2013

A dubious title

It has been noted before that Australia's major banks have been experiencing high valuations, profits and share prices recently.  A glowing endorsement in the Wall Street Journal had the Commonwealth Bank as the most expensive bank in the world, with the other three majors (Westpac, NAB and ANZ) along with Macquarie as in a stellar performing group:

CBA’s tangible book value of 3.6 times is also the highest in the world, according to UBS analyst Jonathan Mott.
Australia’s banks remain some of the sturdiest in the world owing to their conservative loan books and the strength of the local economy, which hasn’t been in recession since the early 1990s (here). 
But there are warning signs too:

Behind the strong headline results, however, Australia’s banks are struggling to maintain profit growth as the country’s resources boom starts to fade. Investment in resources, such as natural gas or iron ore for export to Asia, has been an engine for the economy over the past decade.Much of the boost to bank profits has come from cost-cutting and falling bad debt charges, which analysts say will lose momentum in the coming year. Revenue growth and demand for credit have remained weak. 
And the Sydney Morning Herald has been reporting on the banks squealing about the potential loss of an offshore tax break, which has been helping them boost profits:

 The chief executive of the Australian Bankers’ Association, Steven Munchenberg, said the changes appeared to go beyond what was necessary to protect the integrity of the tax system.
‘‘Our initial assessment seems to suggest they have gone a bit far,’’ Mr Munchenberg said. ‘‘The measures announced last night appear to go beyond what seems to be necessary for integrity purposes.’’(here)

and some details:

The budget released Tuesday said the offshore banking unit regime will be tightened as it looks to confine the deduction to genuine mobile financial sector activities. This measure is estimated to save an extra $320 million in revenue over the next four years.
A big user of offshore banking units in recent years has been Macquarie Group, which has seen its deductions runs into the hundreds of millions, including $303 million in financial 2008. But the bank has been winding down this activity since the financial crisis.(here)
As seen elsewhere - bankers are hard to please (and quick to disappoint)!

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