Danske Bank shares slide after cut to profitability target

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FILE PHOTO: A Danske bank sign is seen on a bank's headquarters in Copenhagen

By Nikolaj Skydsgaard

COPENHAGEN – Shares in Danske Bank fell more than 5% on Friday after the lender reduced its 2023 profitability target, citing significant challenges such as compliance costs.

Danske, which also pointed to increased competition and margin pressure, now expects to report a return on equity (RoE) of between 8.5% and 9% in 2023, compared with a previous target range of 9-10%.

“We have had to adapt to significant challenges over the past two years,” Chief Executive Carsten Egeriis said.

Denmark’s largest bank has been dogged by a money laundering scandal since 2018, with more negative client cases uncovered since.

“We now have more line of sight of our commercial challenges within retail banking, and the prolonged investments in strengthening our compliance and remediation efforts, leading us to adjust our financial targets for 2023,” Egeriis added.

Shares in Danske were down 5% at 0704 GMT, having risen by more than 9% this year, underperforming a gain of about 38% by the European banking index.

Danske said in July that it would stick to its profitability target of 9-10% RoE in 2023, prompting scepticism from analysts who said that further measures were needed, such as more cost cutting or divestments.

“A smaller downward adjustment than expected, but at the same time also a plan that lacks a little more detail for how it should be fulfilled,” Sydbank analyst Mikkel Jensen told Reuters, referring to the profitability target.

“I still think the market will be sceptical about whether they can deliver that. If they can, it will be better than the market expects.”

For the first nine months of the year Danske reported RoE of 7.3%, well below Nordic peers Nordea and Handelsbanken’s 10.9% and 11.5% respectively over the same period.

Danske also said it expects a cost-to-income ratio in the mid-50s in 2023, slightly worse than its previous target of “low 50s”.

The Danish lender reported net profit of 3.3 billion Danish crowns ($517.90 million) in the third quarter, above an average forecast of 3 billion crowns in a company-compiled poll of analysts.

($1=6.3719 Danish crowns)

(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; Editing by Alexander Smith and David Goodman)