Clients withdraw money from the ATM machines at Standard Bank Library Gardens branch, in the Johannesburg CBD.
Cape Town - Banking giants Standard Bank on Tuesday said its net profit for the first quarter of the year grew by a “low single digit” due to the strength of the rand against the greenback, pound and key African currencies.

Standard Bank said the slowdown was dampened by the rand’s surge during the quarter under review.

“In the three months ended March 31, 2017, the group’s banking operations performance was underpinned by a benign credit performance and well managed costs resulting in low double digit earnings growth.

"The group’s earnings attributable to ordinary shareholders grew 16 percent period-on-period,” the company said.

The bank said its net interest income, the primary source of income, represented the difference between interest earned on assets and interest paid on liabilities.

Aeon Investments’ Asief Mohamed said the single digit growth in net interest was as a result of muted loan growth in African markets, including South Africa.

”Standard Bank’s performance was underpinned by benign credit conditions and well managed costs resulting in low double digit earnings growth,” he said. “Overall the results are in line with our expectations.”

Last month, professional services firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said net interest income remained (NII) the key revenue driver contributing to earnings growth of the major banks in the country.

The firm said banks' non-interest revenue (NIR) grew by 12.8 percent in the 2016 financial year compared to the comparative period, while net interest margins increased 22 basis points to 4.61 percent at the second half of 2016.

Ashburton Investments fund manager Nkareng Mpobane said: “For banks, we would closely monitor the top-line growth drivers of NII and NIR.

Impairments would also likely worsen the deeper we move into sub-investment grade, depending on inflation outputs and the South African Reserve Bank response.”

The group said its net interest margin widened slightly in the first quarter relative to the 3.83 percent recorded in the 2016 year.

Read also: Credit environment benign - Standard Bank

It said this was due to positive endowment in South Africa and certain African markets, most notably Nigeria, Angola and Mozambique.

NIR declined year-on-year off a high base in the first quarter of last year. The company said that the decline in the period was due to lower volatility impacting on trading revenues.


Standard Bank’s impairment charges declined year-on-year, supported by ongoing strong performance of the mortgage book as well as a decline in the corporate and investment banking provisions from a high base in the comparative period.

Standard Bank added that the group’s common equity tier 1 capital ratio, a measure of financial strength, exceeded the board’s internal target range of 11 percent to 12.5 percent.

“Given recent political developments in South Africa and sovereign downgrades to sub-investment grade, it is deemed necessary to highlight that the group remains very liquid, appropriately funded and well capitalised.

"Although these developments are disappointing, the group remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting our clients and delivering value to all of our stakeholders,” the company said.