BNP Paribas SA said its U.S. banking unit, Honolulu-based BancWest Corp., contributed slightly less pretax income and revenue as a share of the parent's fourth-quarter results than a year earlier as the flattened yield curve hurt margins.
After several acquisitions in recent years, the $1.9 trillion-asset Paris banking company also reiterated its intention to focus on organic growth for now in the United States, though executives said they remain optimistic about the U.S. market in general.
"For the upcoming few months we'll be focusing on improving the revenue situation, focusing on organic growth more than anything else," Baudouin Prot, the chief executive of BNP, said in an analyst conference call.
"Over and above the difficulties in the interest rate margin," he said, "we remain convinced that the growth rate of the U.S. economy, the population prospects, and the [profit] margin levels in U.S. banking compared to the quality of banking and the risk involved over there will continue to be at a favorable level."
The $67.3 billion-asset BancWest, the holding company for Bank of the West in San Francisco and First Hawaiian Bank in Honolulu, has completed three U.S. deals since 2004. Its last purchase was of Omaha's Commercial Federal Corp. in 2005.
In the fourth quarter, BancWest's revenue rose 0.6% from the third quarter and 1.7% from a year earlier, to $705 million. Without the Commercial Federal deal, year-over-year revenue would have fallen about 3%, BNP said.
The share of BNP's revenue coming from BancWest also was flat, compared with the third quarter, at 7.6%, but was down 1.7 percentage point from a year earlier. BNP reported $9.4 billion of fourth-quarter revenue, up 3.3% from the third quarter and 25.4% from a year earlier.
BancWest recorded pretax income of $327.4 million, up 1.2% from the third quarter and 13.3% from a year earlier, and this made up 10.5% of BNP's total pretax income of $2.3 billion. This was a 40-basis-point improvement from the third quarter for BancWest but a 1.5-percentage-point decline from a year earlier. BNP's fourth-quarter net income was $2.3 billion, a 2.6% improvement from the third quarter and 28.8% better than a year earlier, it said.
Net interest margin in the fourth quarter fell 3 basis points from the third quarter and dipped 38 basis points from a year earlier, to 3.13%.
Analyst Jean-Pierre Lambert at KBW Inc.'s Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Ltd. wrote in a research note Thursday that BancWest's pretax profit fell 2% short of his estimate because of continued margin pressure from the flattened yield curve. The company's $26.4 million provision for loan losses was 54% higher than Mr. Lambert's expectation of $17.1 million. Otherwise, BancWest's results were generally in line with his expectations, he wrote.