September 2016: European banks
On 6 September the Financial Times reports that most banks today deliver a return on equity (RoE) of only 5% – 10%. This is far from the high point in bank returns during years before the financial crisis of 2008 onwards. A decade earlier for example HSBC made a RoE of 17% and Goldman Sachs 25% – 30%. Non-Nordic European banks’ profitability appears to be undermined by high provisions. Average non-performing loan ratios at 6% (21% in Italy) are about three times US and Japanese levels. Furthermore, fast-digitising, branch-closing Nordic banks operate at a cost-income ratio of 46%, some 10-15 percentage points below the rest of Europe. Europe’s banks trade at 10 times their forecast 2017 earnings and 0.8 times their book value, compared to US banks which trade at 11 times earnings and 1.0 times their book value.