National Australia Bank’s cash earnings have slipped one per cent as expenses have risen partly due to the lender’s increased spend on infrastructure and job cuts.
Unaudited cash earnings of $1.65 billion for the three months to December 31 were down one per cent over the quarter as net interest margin declined, but were up three per cent compared to the prior corresponding period.
In a brief trading update, NAB said expenses had risen four per cent over the quarter due to the previously announced investment and job cuts, as well as the seasonal impact of its enterprise bargaining agreement with staff.
NAB in November said it would spend $1.5 billion on new technology and slash more than $1 billion in costs by the end of the 2020 financial year, partly through the elimination of 6,000 jobs.
“The acceleration of our strategy is well underway and we are pleased with the early progress,” chief executive Andrew Thorburn said on Thursday.
“We are on track to deliver the targets announced with the FY17 results.”
NAB said expenses were likely to grow by between five and eight per cent over the full year, then remain broadly flat until 2020.
Revenue rose one per cent thanks to growth in business and private banking as well as NAB’s institutional unit.
The decline in net interest margin was due to markets and treasury, NAB said, notwithstanding pressure from a full period of the federal government’s bank levy and competition from rivals in the mortgage market.
Rival Commonwealth Bank, announcing its first-half results on Wednesday, cited home loan rate rises as a positive for its net interest margin.
NAB’s bad and doubtful debt charges fell 23 per cent over the period to $160 million, while asset quality also improved.
The bank raised its common equity tier one capital ratio from 10.1 per cent to 10.2 per cent over the quarter and said it was on track to meet the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s 10.5 per cent target for 2020 in “an orderly manner”.
Citi analysts said the result was broadly in line with expectations.
At 1043 AEDT, NAB shares were up 27 cents, or 0.96 per cent, at $28.51, making the stock the strongest performer of the big four banks.