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Edited Transcript of BOCH.CY earnings conference call or presentation 29-Apr-20 8:00am GMT

Full Year 2019 Bank of Cyprus Holdings PLC Earnings Call

NICOSIA May 2, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Bank of Cyprus Holdings PLC earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 8:00:00am GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Eliza Livadiotou

Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance

* Nicolas Scott Smith

Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Corporate Finance Solutions

* Panicos Mouzouris

Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Restructuring & Recoveries Division

* Panicos Nicolaou

Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Andrzej Nowaczek

HSBC, Research Division - Analyst

* Corinne Beverley Cunningham

Autonomous Research LLP - Partner, Banks and Insurance Credit Research

* Jonas Scorza Floriani

Axia Ventures Group Ltd, Research Division - Director

* Robert Sheward

Toscafund Asset Management LLP - Emerging Market Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. I'm Myrtle, your Chorus Call operator. Welcome, and thank you for joining the Bank of Cyprus Conference Call to present and discuss the group financial results for the year ended 31st December 2019.

At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Mr. Panicos Nicolaou, Chief Executive Officer; Ms. Eliza Livadiotou, Executive Director of Finance; Mr. Demetris Demetriou, Chief Risk Officer; Mr. Panicos Mouzouris, Executive Director, RRD; Ms. Anna Sofroniou, Executive Director, Real Estate Management Unit, Mr. Nick Smith, Executive Director of Corporate Finance Solutions; and Ms. Annita Pavlou, Manager, Investor Relations.

Mr. Nicolaou, you may now proceed.

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [2]

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Thank you, Myrtle. Good morning, everyone. Thank you, and welcome to the 2019 Bank of Cyprus Full Year Results. I hope everyone is safe and healthy. Under normal circumstances, our team and I will start presenting you the results of what has been an important year for the bank with significant reduction in NPEs, active cost management system reductions, branch closures and increase to the digital engagement of our clients. However, coronavirus has changed the economic and social landscape in an unprecedented way and in a very short time span.

As a result, this morning, we will be focusing mainly on our role in addressing the crisis, focusing on a few topics as we navigate this environment. Then, Eliza will briefly review our 2019 results. And of course, both of us, along with the team, will be happy to answer your questions.

On Slide 3, the bank's priorities under these unprecedented times are clear: to protect the health of our customers and colleagues; to support them and the wider Cypriot economy; and to provide liquidity to businesses and households affected by the crisis to help alleviate their short-term cash flow burdens. We are determined to help all our stakeholders confront this challenge.

As a management team, we have considerable experience in managing challenging circumstances. We have a robust pandemic plan in place, which ensure that all our operations and service coverage remains uninterrupted. Our investment in our digital transformation program has not only strengthened our operational resilience, but more importantly, has enabled us to quickly respond to a changing landscape and fully deploy our digital service channels to our customers. The increased digital engagement level of our customers during this period is impressive and now stands at 70% as of end of March 2020, and we expect further increases in the near future.

When bank enters these uncertain times with good capital, strong liquidity and funding position. We have a capital well in excess of our regulatory requirements. As of 31st of December 2019, our total capital ratio stood at 18% and our CET1 ratio at 14.8%, with a CET1 buffer of 380 points.

Deposits remained broadly flat at EUR 16.7 billion, and we continue to operate with over EUR 3 billion of surplus liquidity. As at the end of December, our loan-to-deposit ratio stood at 64%.

Turning to Slide 4 now. We are pleased to see the Cypriot government taking all the necessary measures early in the pandemic health and successfully managed to contain the spread from the pandemic (inaudible). Statistics are very challenging. The sample testing per 100,000 population is among the highest within EU. At the same time, the confirmed cases are amongst the lowest. The daily reported cases have stabilized and remained consistently low, enabling the government to consider the gradual (inaudible) of the restrictions, which are expected to be phased out as from early May. Of course, for a full open of our economy and to this industry, we recognize that we need to see with the national focus as well.

Let me now move to Slide 5. We, at Bank of Cyprus, have as our priority the health of our staff and of our customers while ensuring the operational resilience of the bank. We are actively managing the situation, and we have (inaudible) a set of measures in accordance with the guidelines and recommendations from the Ministry of Health to protect the health of our employees. A committee was established to monitor the developments, trace potential incidents in the bank and provide regular updates and guidelines to our staff.

We have fully deployed our Pandemic Plan and with now more than 40% of our people, excluding branches, working from the safety of their homes, taking advantage of our technological transactions and digital solutions. Our branch network continues to operate on a rotational basis as a precautionary measure, with parts of the critical functions (inaudible) in separate locations. Our digital channels provide alternative solution for customers to perform their daily banking transaction online. As I mentioned earlier, 70% of our customers are digital-engaged.

Let me now go to Slide 6, which provide a summary of the measures taken by the regulators for mitigating the COVID-19 impacts. These measures are unprecedented and currently being put in place. The purpose of this measure is to help banks and, if possible, provide the necessary (inaudible) for their customers. Specifically, the measures announced provide flexibility with regards to capital and liquidity requirements as well as providing guidance in the application of IFRS 9.

Starting with the relaxation of the [current] requirements. The regulators allowed banks to temporarily dip into the P2G and capital conservation and countercyclical buffers. Note that the countercyclical buffer for Cyprus is currently set at 0%. Moreover, the ECB [bring forward] the ability to use lower quality own funds to meet Pillar II requirements. Finally, (inaudible) 2020, the Central Bank of Cyprus decided to delay by 12 months to January 2020 (sic) [2021] the phasing-in of the 50 basis points of our O-SII buffer.

With regards to liquidity, the ECB is allowing banks to temporarily operate below the LCR requirement, although note that we are at double that level. In addition, it launched a new Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, which (inaudible) purchases of EUR 750 billion until the year-end.

Moving to asset quality measures. The ECB will exercise temporary flexibility regarding their unlikely-to-pay assessment. In addition, the regulator will exercise full flexibility when discussing with banks the implementation of their NPE reduction strategies.

Finally, the ECB is encouraging financial institutions to avoid procyclicality in models to determine expected credit losses. The ECB will actually provides central macroeconomic scenarios to support banks in applying IFRS 9 provisioning policies, while banks should also give a greater weight to long-term outlook when estimating expected credit losses.

In addition to the ECB measures, we have the EBA and ESMA guidelines, which cover the following key points. The COVID-19 moratorium does not automatically trigger increased credit risk. Banks are expected to distinguish between borrowers (inaudible) funding will not be significantly affected by the current situation in the long term from those that would be unlikely to return to creditworthiness. This restriction will shed institutions to mitigate any potential cliff effect from transfers between stages.

The general COVID-19 moratorium does not trigger automatic reclassification due to forbearance. The COVID-19 moratorium extends 90 days past due deadline via the modified payment schedule. And finally, the EU stress test have been postponed to 2021 to allow banks to prioritize operational continuity. All the above are indicative of the capacity being provided to the banking system to proceed with all the necessary actions in order to help borrowers.

Moving now to Slide 7. I will spend some time on discussing the measures taken by the Cypriot government, which are also important in addressing the consilience of the crisis. In this posted update of COVID-19 in Cyprus, the government quickly introduced fiscal measures, which accounted for 5.4% of Cyprus GDP, aimed at providing liquidity measures and (inaudible) preventing a sharp rise in unemployment. The package (inaudible) governments considered to be one of the most generous amongst EU members.

During April, the government has successfully raised EUR 3 billion of funding from the international and local markets in order to cover the measures undertaken to confront the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and to strengthen state reserves (inaudible) of Cypriot economy.

(inaudible) in detail. First, the Parliament voted for the suspension of loan repayments of interest and capital for 9 months remaining until the end of the year for all eligible borrowers with no arrears for more than days as at the end of February 2020. In addition, the government's promoting a government guarantee program of EUR 2 billion for the provision of low-priced loans to companies and self-employed. EUR 250 million has been certified to be used from (inaudible). The content has been approved by the Council of Ministers and is pending Parliament's approval. (inaudible) the program as of today and as approved by the Council of Ministry, and government will guarantee 70% of the loan amount. Furthermore, the government introduced additional liquidity-supporting measures such as the suspension of VAT and delayed additional increases of contributions for the national health system.

Finally, the government has introduced [employment compensation schemes] for companies impacted by COVID-19 to protect jobs and avoid layoffs, which is estimated as over 50% of private sector employees and approximately 40,000 self-employed in benefit from the wage compensation schemes. [Factors we saw] some benefits from the measures taken by the Eurogroup in early April, most specifically, help us to access to EUR 400 million funding for companies with a focus on SMEs through the European Investment Bank; a loan facility of EUR 160 million with favorable terms for the protection of layoffs during crisis; and finally, to reassess Pandemic Crisis Support through the Enhanced Conditions Credit Line of EUR 440 million.

Moving now to Slide 8. In 2019, the Cypriot economy grew by 3.2%. And whilst clearly, COVID-19 has caused a deceleration of the short-term prospect of the Cypriot economy, it is an open, small and flexible economy, which has demonstrated historically that recovery from economic crisis can be quick. The spread of COVID-19 is expected to have a significant impact, both on the global and Cypriot economy, at least from the first half of 2020. The impact of the Cypriot economy will largely depend on the duration and the intensity of the pandemic. The sectors most adversely affected initially by COVID are expected to be tourism, trade and construction.

As the pandemic still unfolds, it is not possible to assess the full likely impact. The decisive actions announced by the government, along with the coordinated monetary, fiscal and regulatory measures announced by the European authorities are expected to mitigate the impact of this international (inaudible). However, there will clearly still be an impact.

Moving to Slide 9 now. We are cautiously optimistic for the resilience and the recovery capacity of the economy. The government measures provided liquidity injection accounting to almost 1/4 of the country's GDP for the support of the EUR 23.6 billion of performing loans in the banking system.

More specifically, the governmental assistance approved by the Council of Ministers will provide approximately EUR 2.5 billion liquidity to affected businesses and self-employs. Furthermore, an additional amount of EUR 400 million is available for the funding of businesses through the European Investment Bank with a focus on SMEs.

Support will also be provided through the loan moratorium as estimated that it would provide (inaudible) relief to businesses and individuals of approximately EUR 2.3 billion. In addition, it is important to note that the banking industry and (inaudible) in particular, expertise to offer the liquidity in a timely and effective way to affected businesses. This is very important and very high in our priorities.

To summarize, the measures taken by the authorities and government are comprehensive and far reaching for the support of the performing businesses and the economy to withstand the (inaudible) of the pandemic.

Turning now to Slide 10. On Slide 10 to 13, we will discuss our exposure to the most affected sectors of the economy and our strategy to mitigate the impact on our customers and, effectively, the bank. The group has a well-diversified performing loan portfolio amounting to EUR 9.2 billion as at 31st of December 2019. We will continue to closely monitor the book and set up strategies to prevent asset quality deterioration.

The extensive travel bans, the slowdown in production as well (inaudible) seen change in demand and effectively the consumption, stemming from the strict lockdown, have an (inaudible) on tourism, trade and construction sector in the economy. The exposure of our performing book to tourism and trade, which amounts to EUR 1 billion, while the exposure to construction is lower, about EUR 0.5 billion. As at the year-end, the bank has no exposure to aviation.

Of course, any prolonged outbreak in -- of COVID-19 will eventually impact all sectors to a certain extent with a few exceptions. We are setting up (inaudible) and efficient strategies for each client segment and industries, while in close contact with impacted customers in order to primarily -- to assess the full extent of the COVID-19 economic side effects and secondly, provide relief in the form of payment deferrals and restructurings as appropriate. We will provide liquidity to affected customers to help alleviate their short-term cash flow burden through the government-guaranteed facilities and other lending products from the bank. And with great demand, various government-guaranteed facilities has (inaudible) Council of Ministers, but are still pending to the Parliament.

On Slide 11, we'll provide information about the loan moratorium included in the government measures. The loan moratorium was started on 30 March 2020 (inaudible) for loans are addressed and (inaudible) for the period until the end of the year. (inaudible) is available to all customers, both private individuals and businesses, for less than 30 days as at the end of February 2020. The loan terms will be extended so that the loan payments will continue as per the existing schedule. (inaudible) moratorium interest will continue to accrue. It's important to note that after the (inaudible) the COVID-19 moratoriums does not trigger automatic reclassification (inaudible) due to forbearance. As at 23rd of April 2020, we have received approximately 20,000 applications for EUR 5.2 billion global loans, accounting for 56% of the performing loan book. Applications from businesses amounts to EUR 3.4 billion or 66% of the performing book, whereas applications from (inaudible) and private individuals amount to EUR 1.77 billion or 45% of the performing book.

I would like once again to emphasize that during the moratorium period, we'll continue to closely monitor the creditworthiness of our customers who applied for the scheme, to support them from the day after in order to effectively and timely address any potential worsening of their credit quality, following them of the moratorium.

Moving on to Slide 12. As of the end of 2019, performing loans to private individuals amounted to EUR 3.94 billion. It is expected that over 35% of total employment in Cyprus will remain unaffected from the COVID-19 crisis, having workforces employed within government, semi-government and other financial sectors. In addition, measures announced by the government include an employment compensation scheme for businesses impacted by COVID-19 to protect jobs and avoid layoffs until mid-June 2020. (inaudible) for the compensation for 60% of the wage cost for up to 60% to 90% of the workforce, depending on the extent of loss turnover and number of employees.

It is important to note that a requirement of the scheme in that no employee has been fired since 1st of March 2020. The government expects that over half of private sector employees and around 40,000 self-employed will benefit from the employment compensation scheme.

As previously mentioned, the moratorium applications we received from private individuals amounted to EUR 1.77 billion from this (inaudible) currently have in our books and are driven by mortgages and personal loans.

Moving now to Slide 13. Let's now go through a deep dive through our exposure to the most affected sectors, tourism and trade. As of 31st of December 2019, our total exposure to tourism amounted to EUR 1.01 billion. 6% of this relate to food services that are better positioned to manage social distorting through take out and drive-through facilities. The accommodation sector is expected to be under the most significant pressure. Most customers in this sector entered the crisis well, with significant liquidity, following strong performance in recent years. Specifically, the unutilized liquidity of the sector as at the end of March 2020 amounted to EUR 340 million, most of them being deposits in that account of the clients. 80% -- 88% of our tourism exposure already applied for payment deferrals.

Our exposure to trade is similar as at the end of December.

28% of this is in lower risk essential retail services not materially impacted by COVID-19 such as supermarkets and pharmacies. The unutilized liquidity of the sector amounted to EUR 830 million as at the end of March 2020. For this sector, 53% applied for payment deferrals.

Slide 14. During this unprecedented time, our bank continues to operate smoothly, supported by its digital transformation program. The bank's digital (inaudible) channels provide alternative solution to our customers to carry out their daily banking transactions. Today, 70% of our customers are digitally engaged, up 6 percentage points since December 2019. It is evident that following the outbreak of COVID-19, the ratio of online banking transactions to total transactions increased by 15 percentage points to 45%. The bank has launched various initiatives aiming to provide better, faster and (inaudible) alternatives to customers. As a result, these include, amongst others: the issuance of debit cards free of charge until the end of May 2020; and additionally, new customers can receive free subscription to Internet banking; new customers can open an account via the bank website and receive debit card free of charge; and other measures.

I will now hand over to Eliza to take you through the highlights for the full year 2019 on Slide 15. Eliza, the floor is yours.

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Eliza Livadiotou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance [3]

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Thank you, Panicos. Hi from me. I only intend to take you through the headline slide for (inaudible) in cognition of the timing of the issuance of our full year numbers.

So if we start with Slide 16. Our capital position remains good. Total capital and CET1 ratios stood at 18% and 14.8%, respectively, well in excess of our regulatory requirements. The derisking of our balance sheet continued in 2019. The organic gross NPE reduction in the fourth quarter amounted to EUR 205 million, bringing total organic reduction since -- for the year to EUR 889 million, ahead of our guidance of around EUR 800 million reduction for the year.

Since we peaked in 2014, our gross NPEs declined by 74% to EUR 3.9 billion or EUR 1.8 billion on a net basis. Our gross NPE ratio was reduced to 30% and exposure of 64% coverage by expected loan credit losses. Due to the prevailing market and operational conditions arising from the outbreak of COVID-19, the NPE sale is currently delayed and will take longer than anticipated to complete.

During the quarter, our deposits increased marginally Q-on-Q by 1% at EUR 16.7 billion, whereas the loan-to-deposit ratio stood at 64%. In March 2020, liquidity fees were introduced to specific customer groups.

In fourth quarter of 2019, we also successfully completed our voluntary staff exit plan, resulting in an annual gross savings in stock costs of 13% or EUR 28 million and a reduction of full-time employees by 11%. The one-off cost of the VRS (sic) [VEP] scheme was of EUR 81 million and was recognized during the fourth quarter. Also, the number of branches were reduced by 18%, as facilitated by the ongoing digital transformation. As Panicos mentioned earlier, the percentage of digitally engaged customers increased to 70% as at the end of March 2020.

New lending for the fourth quarter amounted to EUR 443 million and EUR 2 billion for the year, up 9% compared to the prior year. New lending for the full year '19 is at its highest level since 2015.

In the fourth quarter, we generated total income of EUR 156 million and a positive operating result of EUR 53 million. Our cost of risk was at 0.9% for the fourth quarter, remaining broadly flat Q-on-Q. The underlying results for the quarter was a loss after tax from organic operations of EUR 6 million and a profit of $36 million for the full year.

During the fourth quarter, there was a provision to net loss of NPE sales of EUR 86 million, which included, as previously announced, loan credit losses within the context of IFRS 9 of EUR 75 million for the anticipated balance sheet derisking through NPE sales. Following the one-off cost of the VEP of EUR 81 million as well as the net loss of the NPE sales of EUR 86 million, the loss after tax was at EUR 186 million for the quarter and EUR 70 million for the full year.

Now turning to Slide 16, a few key points on our liquidity metrics. Our deposits are stable year-on-year at EUR 16.7 billion, and we continue to operate a significant excess liquidity of EUR 3.2 billion as at 31st December '19. Our loan-to-deposit ratio at the end of the year stood at 64%. And finally, our cash balances increased to EUR 5.1 billion.

We also note that the ECB allows banks to temporarily operate below the LCR requirement of 100% in OpEx to allow the deployment of readily available liquidity during this period of market stress. In addition, the updated TLTRO terms are significantly more generous. And the June 2020 subscription has now been breached with [liquid] tenders of TLTRO facilities. Finally, the ECB launched a new a Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme for an amount of EUR 750 billion, and purchases will be conducted until the end of this year.

Now moving to Slide 17 on capital. We have a good capital position, well in excess of our regulatory requirements. As at 31st December '19, our total capital stood at 18.0% and our CET1 at 14.8%, with a CET1 buffer of 380 basis points. In front loading, we have the ability to use AT1 and Tier 2 to meet Pillar II requirement, given an additional CET1 buffer of 131 basis points. The temporary relaxation of capital conservation buffer also provides a further additional CET1 buffer of 250 basis points. Summing it all up, the bank's CET1 buffer increases to 761 basis points.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, in April 2020, the Central Bank of Cyprus decided to delay by a year the phasing-in of -- by 50 basis points of the O-SII buffer until January 2022.

Slides 20 to 42 provide a lot more detail of our performance in the fourth quarter, and we can discuss both at the Q&A session and in bilateral calls with all of you across (inaudible).

So with that, I hand back to Panicos for closing remarks on Slide 18.

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [4]

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Thank you, Eliza.

COVID-19 is a special crisis, presenting an [antecedent to external economy shock]. The current economic assessment will mean that we cannot, at this stage, have clearly the (inaudible) social impacts of COVID-19 on bank group operations and financial results are, [in particular], principally dependent on the rate and extent of the spread of the virus with direct and [indirect impact on] customers and the effectiveness on the regulatory and fiscal measures [taken] for the economy and mitigating the impact on life.

We have (inaudible) and strong liquidity position as we enter the crisis. The government has taken all the right measures to contain the virus and provide superior [injectable] liquidity to businesses and private individuals. However, we acknowledge the deterioration of the short-term prospects of the Cypriot economy. As a consequence, we will not give the macroeconomic assumptions underlying the (inaudible) calculation of loan credit losses for Q1 2020 in line with the relevant relative guidance, and we anticipate that this may result in increase of organic provisions in Q1, although the exact funding of any such increase is yet unknown.

While we are currently seeing lower production, income and lower demand for loans, the ongoing [economic access can be reason] we do not have sufficient visibility about the likely social impact on the group operations or financial results. And we -- also, currently, not enough for you to provide guidance for the current financial year. However, we are confident that the banks could [call out based] extra liquidity position, has to be able to support our clients through this period of extreme volatility, playing our part in limiting the impacts while the pandemic is happening.

Our medium-term strategic priorities remain clear with a sustained focus on strengthening our balance sheet and improving asset quality and efficiency in order to continue to play a vital role with some (inaudible) Cypriot economy.

This concludes our presentation, and we will now open for questions. Thank you. Thank you very much.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) The first question comes from the line of Floriani, Jonas with Axia Ventures.

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Jonas Scorza Floriani, Axia Ventures Group Ltd, Research Division - Director [2]

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I have a few questions. So starting on the NPE side of things, I was looking at Slide 25. And I was just wondering if you could share some color on how do you see your tools and ability to deliver outflows of NPEs in 2020. I understand that what's going to happen on the upper part of this slide, in terms of inflows, redefaults, et cetera, it's a big unknown. But how confident you are that you're able to deliver the actions you deliver in 2019 as similar to the bottom part of the slide? So this is question number one.

And then the question two relates to that. I think we've heard some earlier comments from Cyprus regarding a potential bad bank. So just wondering if there is any related discussion on that, if there's anything you can share.

And then finally, I will end with the lending expectation for 2020. You had a very good volume of new disbursements in 2019. I'm just wondering, now that you have all of this support and ability to support viable customers if you see a major change in the volume of disbursements in 2020 versus '19, right? You closed '19 with EUR 2 billion. So I was looking if you could share like a volume expectation for 2020. I'll leave it there. And if there's anything else, I will try [later].

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [3]

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Okay. I will -- thank you, Floriani. I will provide some short answers, and then I will give the floor to Panicos and he could comment on the NPE.

On Slide 25, I just want to mention that for 2020 and because of the moratorium, the moratorium does not trigger any automatic NPE flows, but is effective. One, there will be, as we said, continued assessment of the portfolio. And while we will consider [the risk], a signal of unlikely to pay in the long term, where we will be triggering our NPE.

So the moratorium is kind of providing time and comfort so that we avoid NPE [and clips]. So this is my -- let's say, the answer on this, but I'm sure that maybe Panicos can say much more on this.

On the production bank, yes, we have seen this in the new -- brought on the European level and also on the local (inaudible). It's something that is on the very, very early stages and -- so we don't if we could -- we don't know any case about this or I cannot comment further.

On the [new lend date] of 2020, yes, I mean in the -- in this year probably in dealing with providing liquidity support in talking from clients, I do expect lower volumes than 2019, but I also do expect because of the moratorium, lower returns to our performing book. And as you may have noticed in the previous year, despite the significant lending, we haven't seen our performing book growing too much because of the securities [or repairs] we had in the previous years of this group as well. So there will be lower volume than 2019, but at the same time, there will be a lot of payments on this regard.

Nick, can you be more specific on the NPEs on page -- Slide 25 of [Banco]?

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Panicos Mouzouris, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Restructuring & Recoveries Division [4]

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I cannot, on NPEs (inaudible) by saying that (inaudible) COVID-19 (inaudible) that we have to be executed. (inaudible), we have a very strong pipeline. We are expecting NPE reductions to continue at a slower pace in 2020, mainly because most of the government services are not fully operational at this point of time. But as soon as economic conditions normalize, we expect to resume our efforts to improve asset quality position and seeking solutions for the pandemic impact.

This would be -- mean you looking to our current NPE book. And we put on one side, the portfolio that is for sale. The remaining NPEs are partly separated into 4 categories. And there is a separate strategy for each one of these categories. I will continue by saying that the remaining NPEs are separated for categories, and we'll give you some more color on the categories that we are working on. With [contrast, seeing] that we are working on a new strategy, depending on whether the client have applied for the scheme or it's a strategy to foster or we are speaking about sensitive cases, so we've got a plan there how to resolve the SPA portfolio.

We are still having some large groups in the portfolio that we have a clear leverage plan for each of them. Then we've got a restructured portfolio that we are monitoring closely -- close, so that it will exit NPE status in the near future. And then we've got a core portfolio, which, with the mixed strategy, will be applied depending on the category of the client. That means that whether there is a client that we have a cash flow there, if we are speaking about clients which have [state partners] or clients for which a restructure is under its way.

So I will say that we have, for our existing people, an action plan that we are committed to deliver. And we have shown the last 5 years that we have delivered EUR 11 billion NPE reductions, 75% of that was organically. So we have the knowledge and the experience to continue delivering sufficient NPE reductions for 2020 as well.

Nick, can you comment on the rate, please?

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Nicolas Scott Smith, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Corporate Finance Solutions [5]

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Sure. Look, I've spoken about this before. As you know, it's part of our thinking and part of our focus and has been for some time now. We've talked about it on, probably, the last 2 or 3 quarterly calls. I think we'll be -- we've made good progress in developing that solution. You know it's an area we've got a strong track record in. We've delivered 3 previous trades, and all have been value-enhancing to the bank and our shareholders.

I think that naturally, you'd expect, given the current circumstances, both practical and financial people are taking a short pause, to be frank, sorts out their own issues. And I'm fully expecting beyond that short pause to pick up that story. I think we've previously guided you into our hope. We weren't promising it, but I hope that we would deliver transactions during the first part of 2020. That's clearly been delayed by the current pandemic. And I'm focusing now more on the -- tentatively on the second half of the year. But obviously, we'll have to keep that under review because there are many, many uncertainties outside of our control right now on that issue. But it's still there, and it's still being actively developed.

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Jonas Scorza Floriani, Axia Ventures Group Ltd, Research Division - Director [6]

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Just a quick follow-up. Do you have any update both on the NPE flows but also on lending as of Q1 already?

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Eliza Livadiotou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance [7]

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For NPE -- for -- we do, but I don't think -- we don't think this is the right time to discuss this. We will shortly issue in Q1 results.

Just to your questions on us on new lending, we are guiding for lower demand for new loans from here, from Q2 to Q4. And -- but the volume of loans actually will probably not vary that much from where it was at year-end because of the moratorium. Given the significant levels of moratorium take-up, as you see here, this means that the loan book will actually remain broadly flattish -- the performing loan book, I mean.

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Operator [8]

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The next question comes from the line of Nowaczek, Andrzej with HSBC.

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Andrzej Nowaczek, HSBC, Research Division - Analyst [9]

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Can you provide an update on state guarantees, please? When do you expect the lot to be approved? And what impact do you think this will have for not just the main volumes but also profitability of those new loans and over what time period?

And my second question is, what is latest on the relaxation of lockdown restrictions? In particular, what are the scenarios here for hotels reopening and when?

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [10]

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Okay. I will take this and Eliza will comment [again]. Okay. On state guarantees, I mean, actually, we said that this has been approved by the Council of Ministers but not yet passed through the Parliament. Our information is that this will happen next week. But policies, you'll never be sure. So as of today, the percentage of each longer, until now it's -- maybe is 70%. I don't know if this will change. It will be -- because of the discussion, that this may go higher to certain sectors of the economy, maybe up to 80% or 90%.

And the -- actually, the rates are lower, as you may imagine. But given the cost, given the state guarantees, which require no caveat from the bank, I think the returns, depending on which rates will end up in them, will be sufficient enough.

So we believe that we can [lessen in the next] (inaudible), we're going to see this going through the pipeline because it's something that both the Ministry of Finance there is discussing with (inaudible) secure the majority that we needed.

In terms of relaxation, actually today, we expect an announcement from the President about the relaxation in phases. We expect the first phase to begin on Monday. And set the category like construction or the sector -- [IT] sector part, I would not -- I don't even want to go in -- let's say, [roughly everybody's presenting] the press. But it's obvious that -- let's say, hotels in (inaudible), in the last phase of the relaxation, which is positioned in June or July.

I think, Eliza, maybe want to say on state guarantee.

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Eliza Livadiotou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance [11]

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On the relaxations, (inaudible) if I may add, there is -- the government is talking to the press over the last few days about their plans to push hard to make sure that hotel occupancy within the restrictions of -- the remaining restrictions that would be placed at the time will start beefing up from late June and early July [of 20%]. And they're talking about forming a pact with other countries that have similar low COVID incidents, ratios, like Greece and Israel, in order to promote these destinations as sales and good options for touring. So this is a plan that's currently out being developed. And I think with Q1 numbers in the next few weeks, we would be able to talk more about it most about it, [most probably will be about the government in relation] to the market.

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [12]

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And also, [is] extend the (inaudible) season, I mean for -- let's say, for the remaining of the year in Q4, September to November and December. I mean because as you know, Cyprus has a very few (inaudible), so -- but -- and in good weather, even in -- even until December. So another 2 Qs outstanding the [peak] season, for -- from September to October to November and maybe during December and January. But as Eliza said, we probably have not to say -- let's say [in May], we will announce the Q1 results.

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Eliza Livadiotou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance [13]

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Also on -- for reduction time period of the government guarantees, although the -- we haven't seen the final version of the law or the latest available, we understand that the intention is that they have up to 6-year loans. The headline NII profitability, net of the state guarantee fees will be lower than a normal commercial loan, but the ROE remains reasonable.

So because of the government guarantee and the -- we will equate from the portion of the loans that's guaranteed. So we are supportive of this team. It's also, we think, a very good tool, which will enable customers -- it will set against defaults in the future. It will provide good and low-volume liquidity.

The one thing I do want to mention is that the crisis is actually a -- from an NII perspective, it's actually an opportunity to review and revise where possible, the pricing of the existing portfolio as customers require further assistance from the bank on a liquidity level. So this is one of the strategies we want to pursue as soon as some sort of normality comes back to the market.

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [14]

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And further on the (inaudible) because after exiting, let's say [drop the law], this is -- it's an allocated amount per bank. So we estimate to be allocated 40% -- around 40% of this amount of the EUR 2 billion. So...

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Operator [15]

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The next question comes from the line of Cunningham, Corinne with Autonomous Research.

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Corinne Beverley Cunningham, Autonomous Research LLP - Partner, Banks and Insurance Credit Research [16]

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Can you hear me okay?

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Eliza Livadiotou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance [17]

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Yes.

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Corinne Beverley Cunningham, Autonomous Research LLP - Partner, Banks and Insurance Credit Research [18]

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That's great. A couple of questions. Have you actually given a date for your Q1 reporting yet?

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Eliza Livadiotou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance [19]

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No, we haven't, but we will confirm it closer to a time. It's all contingent on operational ability as well. We should be able, in the next few weeks, to reach an announcement on the date.

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Corinne Beverley Cunningham, Autonomous Research LLP - Partner, Banks and Insurance Credit Research [20]

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Okay. And my next question was on liquidity. The liquidity position currently looks like it's favorable. But if you start to factor the nonreceipt of interest, nonreceipt of loan repayments and possible drawdowns under the government guarantees loan scheme, what's your tolerance for the liquidity position? What do you think that would look like sort of going towards the end of the year?

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Eliza Livadiotou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance [21]

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Okay, we've actually -- yes. Sorry. Sorry. We actually are on multiple scenarios, Corinne, on this, including 100% or near 100% acceptance of the moratorium in the extreme. And we don't -- we are nowhere near the 100% LCR ratio in all scenarios. The moratorium, the whole installment, the -- this is the 100% take-up of the moratorium. It's roughly EUR 1 billion of inflows that will not come in. And our surplus liquidity, from a regulatory perspective, is at EUR 2.2 billion. We will be partly offset by lower new lending on assets before in any case. So we don't -- we're not worried about it because it is not -- I mean we are clearly monitoring it and managing it, but it's not at a level where we should take action.

The other point to say was the (inaudible) relaxations are very [change] (inaudible), the TLTROs, the collateral rules. Our covered bond remains available if you need to use it to borrow. So we have a lot of backup liquidity as well if needed.

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Operator [22]

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The next question comes from the line of Sheward, Rob with Toscafund Asset Management.

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Robert Sheward, Toscafund Asset Management LLP - Emerging Market Analyst [23]

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Just quickly, can I just follow up on the cost point? So I appreciate the movement given the VEP that happened in Q4. I was just wondering if you kind of think about that EUR 28 million run rate, I think, savings on cost. I was wondering if there was a bit of a better way of looking at it in terms of the net saving when you consider the renegotiations, et cetera. How should we think about that going forward, please?

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [24]

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Eliza?

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Eliza Livadiotou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance [25]

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Okay. Rob, we've -- as we've mentioned before, we'll do -- we did plan for another round of cost reductions -- as cost reductions down the road. I mean the timing of this now needs to be discussed again. It may or may not change. It depends on how things evolve. If it was -- but it wasn't an immediate next phase. It was planned a few quarters down the road.

Having said that, we are also rethinking about everything else, all the nonfab costs and back at the drawing board to identify more savings to the ones that we have planned in any case for -- especially for 2020 and then, of course, for the following year.

So we'll -- we are -- this is a work in progress because COVID is only just for a short number of weeks. So we will be able to give more color on this, I think, as I...

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [26]

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I think, Eliza, the number -- probably, the necessary is close to EUR 23 million after accounting for the collective and (inaudible), but we have some -- enough done...

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Eliza Livadiotou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance [27]

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For IFRS, yes.

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [28]

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Yes, yes. So it's EUR 23 million after. We have the -- our -- actually, our COVID action plan, which is well and it's becoming even more important given the prices and the reduction in our, let's say, revenues at least for 2020. So yes, it's becoming more important, and it will be more aggressive versus our original plan.

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Robert Sheward, Toscafund Asset Management LLP - Emerging Market Analyst [29]

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Okay. And just if I think about 2020 and the cost base compared to roughly EUR 400 million underlying last year, the cost base can you keep that flat? Or it might still come down by an amount of the [COVID plan of action, possibly VEP]?

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Eliza Livadiotou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - Executive Director of Finance [30]

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Let's say the EUR 23 million that Panicos mentioned, you should assume is a reduction in the net impact from a staff cost. And as I said on the nonstaff costs, we are trying to fine no savings to even our plan. What I do -- I should mention, a lot is put is [one button, in fact that] -- in carrying the (inaudible) costs. And the other is that we do expect to have to incur incremental fees for the deferred tax credit law that went through last year. There were -- there was a EUR 12.5 million charge in 2019, and we expect roughly EUR 6 million or thereabout annual charge going forward as an increased fee for this benefit. But net-net -- net of lease, we should assume -- we should expect -- or you should expect savings compared to '19.

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [31]

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Yes. More [boring] stuff because (inaudible), which is the amount.

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Operator [32]

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Ladies and gentlemen, there are no further questions at this time. I will now turn the conference over to Mr. Nicolaou for any closing comments.

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Panicos Nicolaou, Bank of Cyprus Holdings Public Limited Company - CEO & Executive Director [33]

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No, as I said, this is a period that is -- of uncertain times and going through this period of [back has], as you said, a good color on strong liquidity for our clients. We will be in a better position to provide more visibility on the 2020 numbers, together with our Q1 results or (inaudible) results later in the year for the same method.

So thank you all for your time. And of course, we will be willing to take any questions off-line from anyone that wants to see -- [who did buy] on our accounts and on our, let's say, presentation. And either -- I'm sure that both myself, Eliza and the remaining on the executive team [will need] to have a call with everyone that wants to have more visibility and more clarification on questions in our 2019 accounts and also in how we see things moving forward in Cyprus and the portfolio of the bank going forward due to the corona crisis.

So nothing else from my side. Thank you all for your time. And I hope we will stay healthy for the remaining of the season. Thank you.