Standard Bank Group delivered strong earnings growth which drove returns higher. Earnings growth and robust capital levels supported higher dividends for shareholders. The group is ahead of plan and confident it will deliver its 2025 targets.
Standard Bank Group Limited (SBG or group) delivered record headline earnings of R34.2 billion for the twelve months to 31 December 2022 (FY22 or the current year), up 37% on the twelve months to 31 December 2021 (FY21 or the prior period). The group recorded continued client franchise growth across all its businesses and geographies. Return on equity (ROE) improved to 16.4% (FY21: 13.5%). Net asset value grew by 10% and the group ended the current period with a common equity tier 1 ratio of 13.5% (31 December 2021: 13.8%). The SBG board approved a final dividend of 691 cents per share which equates to a final dividend payout ratio of 60%.
This strong performance has resulted in the group being ahead of plan in terms of delivering on its 2025 commitments. Revenues were boosted by cyclically higher interest rates. Revenue growth was well ahead of cost growth which supported strong positive operating leverage and a decline in the cost-to-income ratio. The group’s credit loss ratio was near the bottom of the group’s through-the-cycle range and ROE moved closer to the 2025 target range of 17% to 20%.
Strong average balance sheet growth and margin expansion, primarily due to higher interest rates, supported robust net interest income growth. A larger client base, recovery in transactional and foreign exchange activity, as well as increased digital volumes, drove growth in net fee and commission revenue. Increased client activity supported trading revenue. Revenue growth exceeded cost growth, resulting in positive jaws of 579 basis points and a cost-to-income ratio of 54.9%. Credit impairment charges increased by 22%, driven by higher corporate and sovereign-related charges, particularly related to Ghanaian sovereign exposures. The group’s credit loss ratio was broadly flat at 75 basis points (FY21: 73 basis points). Standard Bank Activities recorded headline earnings growth of 22% to R30.5 billion and ROE improved to 16.3% (FY21: 14.7%).
Liberty Holdings Limited’s (Liberty) operational performance improved. The business reverted from a net loss in FY21 to a profit of R2.1 billion. In FY21, Liberty raised pandemic-related provisions which negatively impacted performance. The Liberty minority buyout was successfully completed and the process of integrating Liberty into the group is well underway. While there is further work to be done, we remain confident that the full integration of Liberty into the group will create sustainable value for shareholders.
The South African franchise delivered headline earnings growth of 26% and ROE improved to 15.2% (FY21: 12.5%). Revenue grew by 12% driven by balance sheet growth, margin expansion, and a recovery in client activity to pre-Covid-19 levels. Credit impairment charges increased by 10% reflective of the difficult economic environment and deteriorating client trends. Costs were well contained to deliver positive jaws of 427 basis points.
The Africa Regions franchise delivered a robust performance. Headline earnings grew by 36% and ROE improved to 21.0% (FY21: 18.2%). Revenue grew by 30% driven by a larger balance sheet, higher interest rates, higher transactional volumes, a recovery in international trade, and strong growth in trading revenue. The franchise more than absorbed the increase in costs to deliver positive jaws of 882 basis points. The top six contributors to Africa Regions headline earnings were Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia. Africa Regions contributed 36% to FY22 group headline earnings.
In line with the group’s stated approach to support Africa’s just energy transition and its ambition to be the leader in sustainable finance on the continent, the group mobilised R54.5 billion of sustainable finance loans and bonds in FY22, more than doubling origination of the product in FY21.
In 2022, increased geopolitical tensions, the Russia/Ukraine conflict, and China’s Covid-19 related restrictions fuelled inflation, uncertainty, elevated market volatility and an asset price shock. Inflation concerns drove monetary policy tightening and higher funding costs weighed on economic activity.
In sub-Saharan Africa, as higher input costs fed into the economies, inflationary pressures mounted and interest rates increased. Most countries experienced currency weakness relative to the strong US dollar. Discussions with the International Monetary Fund around sovereign debt support programmes continued in various countries. In November 2022, Ghana announced its intention to restructure its debt. The region’s GDP is expected to have grown at around 3.8% in 2022, slightly ahead of global growth of 3.4%.
While high commodity prices and strong terms of trade provided South Africa with some protection in the six months to 30 June 2022 (1H22), this faded quickly in the six months to 31 December 2022 (2H22). The aftermath of the KwaZulu-Natal floods, increased electricity disruptions, and stalled structural reforms weighed on sentiment and demand. The repo rate increases (2022: +325 basis points) were both faster and larger than expected. Consumer balance sheets remained relatively robust, however by year end, signs of stress had started to emerge. The South African economy grew at 2.0% in 2022.
Overview of performance
Standard Bank Activities by client segment
Client segments are our primary axis of reporting. The client segments are responsible for designing and executing our client value proposition.
CHNW delivered headline earnings of R8.9 billion, an increase of 27% on FY21 and ROE increased to 17.3% (FY21: 14.0%). CHNW’s strong performance was largely driven by the post Covid-19 economic recovery and an associated improvement in client activity (FY22 vs FY21). Growth in active clients supported deposit growth. Gross loans to customers grew by 5% driven by a combination of secured lending in South Africa and unsecured lending in Africa Regions. Loan growth paired with a positive endowment impact owing to higher average interest rates, drove net interest income growth of 15% to R32.6 billion (FY21: R28.5 billion). Non-interest revenue grew by 8%, benefitting from an increase in the active client base, higher transactional activity, and annual price increases as well as from higher cross border transaction volumes. Credit impairment charges declined by 3% to R7.7 billion. The credit loss ratio was 122 basis points, within CHNW’s through-the-cycle target range of 100 to 150 basis points. Despite inflationary pressures, the business achieved positive jaws of 104 basis points and an improved cost-to-income ratio of 60.8% (FY21: 61.4%).
BCC delivered headline earnings of R8.0 billion, an increase of 51% on FY21, and an ROE of 33.7% (FY21: 24.7%). Net interest income growth was very strong driven by balance sheet growth and positive endowment. Non-interest revenue growth was positively impacted by the recovery in client transactional volumes as lockdowns eased, increased foreign exchange trade volumes, and annual pricing adjustments. Planned investment in technology, marketing and people led to higher costs, however, the robust revenue growth still led to positive jaws of 963 basis points. Credit impairment charges declined by 1%, as lower charges experienced in South Africa were largely offset by an increase in charges in Africa Regions. BCC’s credit loss ratio of 96 basis points was marginally below its through-the-cycle target range of 100 to 120 basis points.
CIB headline earnings increased by 11% to R14.8 billion and ROE was 19.2% (FY21: 19.4%). Revenue grew by double digits across all three CIB business segments and across all client sectors. Balance sheet growth, together with the positive endowment drove net interest income to R24.2 billion, a 31% increase on FY21. Non-interest revenue grew by 16%, led by a 20% increase in trading revenues underpinned by increased client activity. Cost growth was reflective of inflationary pressures in some markets, however strong revenue growth resulted in positive jaws of 1 067 basis points. The business incurred a net impairment charge in FY22, following a net release in FY21. The key drivers of the credit impairment charges were specific impairments raised in the consumer sector and the impact on Ghanaian sovereign bonds and corporate exposures due to Ghana’s sovereign distress. The credit loss ratio to customers was 37 basis points, which is below CIB’s through-the-cycle target range of 40 to 60 basis points.
Standard Bank Activities by solution
For the purposes of our secondary reporting axis, we group products and services into banking, insurance and investments.
Banking solutions headline earnings reflected a strong performance, up 25% year on year.
Loans and advances
Gross loans and advances to customers grew by 9% to R1.4 trillion as at 31 December 2022, supported by strong growth in the corporate, business lending and vehicle and asset finance portfolios. The home services, card balances and personal unsecured portfolio growth was more muted.
Total provisions increased by 9% to R55.8 billion as at 31 December 2022 . Increases in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa were partially offset by recoveries in Uganda and the release of the group’s R500 million Covid-19 related provision raised in FY20 and previously held at the Centre. In relation to the group’s exposures to Ghanaian sovereign debt impacted by the proposed sovereign debt restructure (i.e. Ghanaian local currency and onshore USD bonds), the group’s exposure, net of settlements year to date, equates to R2.6 billion. Balance sheet provisions held at year end equated to R1.4 billion combined with fair value adjustments taken against the impacted exposures of R0.1 billion equate to R1.5 billion, or 56% coverage.
As at 31 December 2022, stage 3 loans represented 5.0% of the portfolio and provisions held against these loans reflected 50% coverage (31 December 2021, 4.7% and 52%). Total coverage (as at 31 December 2022) was 3.6%, in line with that reported as at 31 December 2021.
Deposits and funding
For the year ended 31 December 2022, deposits from customers increased by 8%, reflective of our continued focus on client acquisition and retention strategies. Retail priced deposits grew by 7% and Wholesale priced deposits grew by 6% year on year. Deposits placed with our offshore operations in the Isle of Man and Jersey grew to GBP6.7 billion as at 31 December 2022 (31 December 2021: GBP6.5 billion).
Revenue grew by 18%, driven by net interest income growth of 24% and non-interest revenue growth of 11%. Strong average balance sheet growth and wider margins linked to higher interest rates supported net interest income growth. Net interest margin increased by 45 basis points to 427 basis points, of which 34 basis points related to positive endowment. The negative impact of tighter pricing was more than offset by mix benefits and endowment tailwinds.
Net fee and commission revenue increased by 7% due to higher client, trade, and transactional activity linked to the post Covid-19 recovery as well as annual price increases. Improved digital capabilities drove higher adoption rates, growth in activity and in turn revenues from digital platforms. Card turnover increased by 17% year on year supporting card-based commissions. Mastercard and Visa fee-related expenses were reallocated from operating expenses to fee expenses. Our expanding network of retail partnerships is paying off as reflected in higher volumes and digital fees from Instant Money, our digital wallet solution in South Africa. Instant Money turnover grew by 22% in FY22 to R32.5 billion.
Trading revenue grew by 15% to R17.0 billion. In response to clients’ needs, the business realised benefits in flow and structured trade solutions. In addition, the uncertain market conditions contributed to increased client demand for forex and commodity hedging on the back of increased commodity prices.
Other revenue increased, driven largely by higher bancassurance income, due to lower credit life claims and higher gross written premiums year on year. Growth in other gains on financial instruments was driven by higher asset valuations.
Credit impairment charges
Credit impairment charges increased by 22% to R12.1 billion. The increase in charges was driven by balance sheet growth, specific impairments in consumer sector names in South Africa, and increased charges in the Africa Regions portfolio, particularly in Ghana. These increases were partially offset by improved collections and payments in the South Africa legacy payment holiday portfolio. Of the total credit impairment charges, R0.9 billion thereof relates to impacted Ghanaian local currency and onshore USD bonds. The credit loss ratio was 75 basis points, slightly up relative to FY21 (FY21: 73 basis points), but down compared to 1H22 (1H22: 82 basis points).
Operating expenses increased by 12%, below the group’s weighted average rate of inflation of 15%. Cost growth was impacted by higher inflation across our operating markets and relative ZAR weakness. Staff costs increased by 12% due to annual salary increases, an increase in skilled staff, and higher incentive accruals aligned to performance. Information technology costs increased by 13%, largely due to higher spend on cloud migration and software licences. Premises costs increased by 9% as a result of increased municipal charges and higher fuel related costs due to load shedding in South Africa (fuel cost increased from R18 million in FY21 to R72 million in FY22). Increases in marketing and advertising was driven by client campaigns and brand repositioning, as well an increase in events following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions. These increases in costs were partially offset by tightly controlled discretionary spend and savings from continued optimisation of infrastructure. Operating expense growth was well below total income growth, which resulted in positive jaws of 579 basis points and a decline in the cost-to-income ratio to 54.9%.
The group’s insurance businesses’ (excluding Liberty) headline earnings increased by 22% year on year. ROE remained robust at 67% (FY21: 60%). Revenue grew by 13% assisted by policy pricing reviews. Gross written premiums increased by 9% year on year, driven mainly by growth in the credit life and funeral insurance policy base. This growth was offset by higher short-term insurance claims arising from the flooding in KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) in April 2022.
The group’s investments solutions businesses (excluding Liberty) reported a 1% increase (CCY: 3%) in AUM/AUA year on year to R522 billion. Despite a difficult operating environment, revenue increased by 8%, largely attributable to net positive client cash flows. Operating expenses grew by 17% owing to annual staff increases, regulatory requirements in Nigeria, and additional costs associated with the rollout of client specific acquisition and retention strategies. Operating expenses growth outpaced revenue growth resulting in a 10% decline in headline earnings to R724 million (FY21: R800 million). With an ROE of 32%, the business continued to contribute positively to group ROE.
Central and other
This segment includes costs associated with corporate functions and the group’s treasury and capital requirements that have not been otherwise allocated to the client segments. In FY22, the segment headline loss amounted to R1.1 billion (FY21: loss of R0.6 billion). The key driver of the increase was additional withholding tax related to higher dividends paid by the group’s Africa Regions’ subsidiaries. In FY22, the group released the R500 million Covid-19 related credit overlay raised in FY20.
Liberty’s normalised operating earnings for the year amounted to R1.6 billion (FY21: R1.3 billion), pre-Covid impacts. Liberty’s headline earnings equated to R2.1 billion (FY21: headline loss of R112 million). Liberty’s core insurance operations, SA Retail and Liberty Corporate, continued to recover post Covid-19. Sales continued to increase and investment margins improved. Earnings were affected by adverse markets, especially in STANLIB and the Shareholder Investment Portfolio. Liberty Group Limited remains well capitalised, with a solvency capital requirement cover ratio of 1.76 times as at 31 December 2022 (FY21: 1.72 times).
The buyout of the Liberty minority shareholders was effective from 1 February 2022. The group’s financial results as consolidated include 57% of Liberty earnings for January 2022 and 100% for the rest of the year. In FY22, Liberty contributed R2.0 billion in headline earnings to the group. The integration of LIberty has commenced. The focus has been on the realignment of teams to drive sales and improve distribution.
On consolidation, the group records an adjustment for Standard Bank Group shares held by Liberty for the benefit of Liberty policyholders (i.e. deemed treasury shares). The treasury share adjustment equated to a negative adjustment of R243 million in the current year (FY21: negative R355 million).
ICBC Standard Bank Plc
ICBC Standard Bank Plc (ICBCS) continued to benefit from closer integration with its parent, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited (ICBC). ICBCS (via the group’s 40% stake) contributed R1.9 billion to group earnings (FY21: R0.5 billion), R1.2 billion thereof related to the insurance settlement in particular and R0.7 billion thereof related to ICBCS’ operational performance.
Profit attributable to ordinary shareholders grew by 39% to R34.6 billion. In FY22, the group issued new shares equating to R9.5 billion as part of the Liberty minority buyout transaction. Group net asset value grew by 10% to R219 billion.
Capital and liquidity
Diligent capital management remains top of mind. The group is focused on ensuring that available capital is put to work or returned to shareholders. Accordingly, the group’s common equity tier 1 ratio (including unappropriated profits) declined to 13.5% as at 31 December 2022 (31 December 2021, 13.8%). The group’s Basel III liquidity coverage ratio and net stable funding ratio were both well above the 100% regulatory requirements.
In 2023, global growth is expected to slow, and inflation is expected to decline. The International Monetary Fund forecasts global real GDP growth of 2.9% for 2023, accelerating slightly to 3.1% in 2024. China’s reopening, post the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, should provide some support. The IMF expects sub-Saharan Africa to grow at 3.8% and 4.1% in 2023 and 2024 respectively. High sovereign debt levels in certain African countries remain a concern, particularly Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria.
In South Africa, monetary tightening is expected to slow. We are anticipating interest rates to increase by an additional 25 basis points in 1H23 (in addition to the 25 basis points increase in January 2023), followed by a pause. Inflation is expected to moderate to 5.9% in the year ahead. The economy is expected to grow at 1.2%, held back by severe electricity shortages and structural constraints. The level of electricity disruptions experienced year to date are unprecedented. We are concerned about the additional strain it is likely to place on our clients. In February 2023, despite making significant progress on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommended actions, South Africa was grey listed by the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog. We will continue to work with the authorities to remedy this.
As a group, we have both the capital and appetite to support our clients’ growth. However, our balance sheet growth will remain subject to the economic growth, policy and enabling frameworks in the countries in which we operate, and in turn our clients’ confidence to invest. In South Africa, meaningful structural reform and an improvement in the electricity supply could lift confidence and accelerate economic growth, job creation and social upliftment. We stand ready to support renewable energy and infrastructure projects and longer term Africa’s just energy transition to what is net zero by 2050.
For the 12 months to 31 December 2023 (FY23), balance sheet growth, particularly from renewables and infrastructure, combined with higher average interest rates, should support low-teen net interest income growth year on year. Non-interest revenue growth is expected to moderate to mid-single digits. Trading revenue growth will be subject to client activity and related flows. We remain committed to delivering below-inflation cost growth and positive jaws. The group’s credit loss ratio is expected to increase to above the mid-point of the group’s through-the-cycle target range of 70 to 100 basis points. The group’s 2023 ROE is expected to show continued progress from the current 16.4% into the group’s ROE target range, driven by continued growth in our mainstay South African banking business, supplemented by deliberate allocation of capital to high growth markets.
We recognise that the strategic progress we have made in FY22 is the outcome of our clients’ trust in us, our employees’ resilience, our regulators’ and partners’ support, and our shareholders’ belief in our strategy. We thank all our stakeholders for their continued support.
We strive to deliver increasingly attractive returns to our shareholders and continued positive impact for all stakeholders in the economies and societies in which we operate. We are confident we can deliver on our 2025 commitments to the market.
The forecast financial information above is the sole responsibility of the board and has not been reviewed and reported on by the group’s auditors.