The president of the Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU) today told Lusa that the institution’s financial results could fall between 10 per cent and 20 per cent this year due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Last year, growth was 24 per cent, which was quite interesting. I believe that this year the bank’s results may fall between 10 and 20 per cent ”, said Carlos Álvares, leader of the banking institution, part of the Portuguese Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) banking group.
“Initially, he estimated it was no more than 10 per cent”, a forecast that he had to revise in the face of “the gravity (…) and the spread of the crisis around the world”, he explained.
The bank’s financial margin has behaved reasonably well, similar to last year, but commissions fell and costs increased, explained Álvares, recalling, for example, that the significant drop in the area of commissions is easily explained: “there are much fewer transactions, there are no trips abroad, people do not use cards ”.
On the other hand, “the bank took great care with people, with its team, and this is obviously reflected in terms of costs,” he added.
A positive factor, still based on February data, is that the institution did not feel an increase in bad loans.
“The Government (…), the association of banks and all banks granted periods of grace period of six months for those who asked for it and, therefore, to date, we have not experienced situations of non-compliance that would lead to an increase in impairments,” he said.
The “financial cushion in Macau” provides “unique conditions to resist this very serious problem that is spreading everywhere”, but much will depend on the “ability to recover the business of the casinos and the opening of individual visas for Chinese tourists”, he stressed.
Carlos Álvares underlined that the bank has “interesting shares in casinos” and “in the government sector”, but not among micro, small and medium-sized companies (SMEs), “actively working” with only 3,000 of the approximately 40,000 that operate in Macau.
“All situations in which we were asked to extend deadlines in terms of capital payments were authorized, I am not aware that none had been refused. As we also only have to work with us, actively, perhaps, 3,000 companies, I believe that there are in the order of hundreds the requests to postpone the payment of capital instalments”, he added.
“On the other hand, we have also opened special lines for payment of wages and for payment of rents and also for investment [in] medical equipment and there has been some demand, but it is not a brutal thing”, he stressed.
The BNU President defended that the Government was quick to take measures to support companies and the population.
“If we add the attempt to increase consumption, the protection of SMEs and the increase in public spending on works, I think that the different pillars that make the economy move are touching, then it is (…) to see the dose that will be needed use,” he commented.
In relation to the social responsibility that Macau Chief Executive demanded at this time of crisis from the major economic agents in the territory, gaming operators, Carlos Álvares listed a list of actions promoted by the bank that cost around MOP4.5 million (US$563,555) last year in various sectors of society.
He concluded: “We would like to do more things, but we also don’t have an unlimited budget”. In other words: “perhaps it is the ceiling that we currently have for this type of very important actions”.
In 2019 BNU recorded MOP721.9 million in profits a 23 per cent year-on-year rise,
Compared to the same period in 2018, BNU’s profits, of the Caixa Geral de Depósitos group (CGD), rose by 23, with the bank having contributed 69 million euros to CGDs net profit of 776 million euros in 2019.
BNU is, together with the Bank of China, a currency-issuing bank in Macau. It currently has 20 branches, including one in Hengqin, Zhuhai.
In the last 10 days, 21 new cases in Macau were identified, all of which were imported after the territory had been there for 40 days without identifying any infection.
In February, Macau recorded a first wave of ten cases of Covid-19, all of whom were discharged.
In February, the government closed the casinos for 15 days, sent employees home, closed schools and much of the business, which practically paralyzed the economy.
That same month, the Macau government announced tax benefits for companies and the population, a line of soft loans for SMEs and social support measures to reduce the economic impact due to the coronavirus.
Exceptional measures include exemption or reduction of taxes, the opening of a line of loans with subsidized interest rates, the reinforcement of social support, as well as the launch of consumption vouchers.