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DBS sees rising risks after rate increases boost quarterly profit

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·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: DBS signages are seen as office workers work in Singapore
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By Anshuman Daga

SINGAPORE (Reuters) -Singapore's DBS Group warned inflation and geopolitical uncertainty may impact second-half performance too, after the wealth business of the bank suffered in the latest quarter, though profit beat estimates on rising interest rates.

The quarterly earnings from DBS, Southeast Asia's largest lender, rounded off a strong reporting season for Singapore banks after local peers OCBC beat estimates and United Overseas Bank flagged further improvement in net interest margins, a key profitability gauge.

"There's just too much geopolitical uncertainty right now and that's hard to translate into what does it do to the macro economy," DBS CEO Piyush Gupta told reporters on Thursday, citing the Russia-Ukraine war and its impact on gas and oil prices, among other factors.

"The big underlying uncertainty is inflation and what will the central banks do to control it, so that's the second order impact of that. Right now, the market is split on whether you get a deep recession or you get high inflation," Gupta said.

DBS shares fell as much as 0.9% before paring losses to 0.3% in late afternoon trade in a strong broader market.

The bank's first-half net interest margin improved to 1.52% from 1.47%, marking the first improvement in three years.

Singapore lenders were expected to report 10 basis points net interest margin expansion in April-June on a quarter-to-quarter basis, the highest over the last eight quarters, outperforming Asian peers, JPMorgan analysts said last month.

Net profit for DBS came in at S$1.82 billion ($1.30 billion) in April-June versus S$1.7 billion a year earlier and compared with an average estimate of S$1.69 billion from five analysts compiled by Refinitiv.

Singapore banks are also benefiting from a rebound in economic activity in the Asian financial hub after the government relaxed most of its COVID-19 restrictions in April.

However, a sharp pullback in global stock markets this year has battered investor sentiment, impacting the large wealth management businesses of banks such as DBS.

The bank said net fee income fell 12% in the second quarter due to lower contributions from wealth management and investment banking that more than offset increases in other fee activities.

DBS said its ongoing stress tests indicated that its asset quality continues to be robust. It maintained its full-year loan growth forecast at mid-single digit percent.

($1 = 1.3801 Singapore dollars)

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Sam Holmes and Muralikumar Anantharaman)