BNP Paribas reports steep drop in Q1 earnings as weak Europe economy hurts investment banking

PARIS – French bank BNP Paribas said Friday its earnings slumped 45 per cent in the first quarter amid a steep drop in corporate and investment banking as Europe’s economic stagnation continued to bite.

The bank, France’s largest by assets, said it made a net profit of 1.58 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in the January-March quarter, down from 2.87 billion euros a year earlier.

In a statement the bank said overall revenue rose rise 1.7 per cent to 10.1 billion euros thanks to its asset management division, which benefited from rising global financial markets. Corporate and investment banking, however, saw earnings tumble about 30 per cent to 806 million euros on a 21 per cent drop in revenue that the bank blamed on weak markets and “occasional renewed tensions” in Europe’s financial crisis.

“In a lacklustre economic environment in Europe, BNP Paribas Group generated 1.6 billion euros in net income this quarter, thanks in particular to good control of costs and risks,” CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the bank announced a cost-cutting drive aimed at squeezing savings of 2 billion euros annually from 2015. About half of the savings are to come from its retail banking division, and another third from investment banking.

The bank booked 155 million euros in the first quarter in costs linked to this plan, and said many other projects are in the process of being launched.

BNP Paribas said its corporate and investment banking division was seeing “a gradual increase of deals in the pipeline” with revenue starting to pick up at the end of the quarter.