DBS expects further revenue hit as coronavirus sours loans

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) -DBS Group Holdings signalled that its expected 2 per cent revenue hit from the coronavirus may be revised as the pandemic causes loans to sour.

“This is a moving target,” the bank’s head of institutional banking, Ms Tan Su Shan, said when asked about the projection in a Bloomberg Television interview on Thursday (March 12). “We are living day by day, week by week right now.”

South-east Asia’s biggest lender made the forecast last month, based on an assumption that the outbreak would subside around the middle of the year.

Since then it has spread around the globe, killing more than 4,600 people, roiling financial markets and prompting the World Health Organisation to declare a pandemic.

Asian stocks fell again on Thursday after US President Donald Trump said he will restrict travel from Europe to the US for the next 30 days.

DBS is monitoring its loan portfolios very closely while continuing to conduct stress tests, said Ms Tan, who oversees corporate clients. “The key here is to stay with the clients, watch everyone’s positions and make sure everyone is okay.”

Having gone through the initial wave of virus-inflicted fear earlier this year, Singapore and other parts of Asia are now seeing signs of stability as governments boost their economies via stimulus packages, Ms Tan said. But the road to recovery would need business confidence and consumer demand returning, she added.

“Given the demand situation, I see NPLs going back up,” Ms Tan said, expecting more bad loans from small and medium-sized companies and sectors including tourism, apparel, hospitality and those linked to consumer demand. Still, now is the time to extend credit to help small firms, she added.

DBS’s 2019 allowances for credit and other losses fell 1 per cent while its non-performing loan ratio stood unchanged at 1.5 per cent.

Shares of DBS fell 3.8 per cent in Singapore at 12.42pm local time, in line with the benchmark Straits Times Index. The stock has slid 22 per cent this year.

Ms Tan has marked her first anniversary in her current role, which she assumed in February 2019. Before that, she led DBS’ consumer banking and wealth management group from 2013.

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