Swedish lender Swedbank reported slightly worse than expected quarterly earnings. This is with a drop in interest income disappointing investors and sending its shares down more than 4%. After tracking a robust recovery from the first waves of the pandemic through much of 2021, Nordic economies hit a bump in the road at the back end of the year. This is because of the Omicron coronavirus variant and related restrictions.
Swedbank CEO Jens Henriksson told reporters that it was a quarter with a stable underlying business. At the same time, it was a quarter marked by the pandemic. And they are currently seeing high sickness rates among their employees. Pandemic curbs are already being eased, and that is limiting the damage to economies. Sweden’s oldest retail bank reported fourth-quarter operating profit down 3.4% year on year at 5.97 billion Swedish crowns. Shares in the bank were down 4.2%, underperforming a 0.3% gain for the European banking index.
Commission income rose by a better than expected 19% to 4.02 billion crowns. But interest income including mortgages dipped 0.3% to 6.55 billion crowns. Analyst notes from Credit Suisse and JP Morgan cited the miss on interest income. Net credit impairments were positive to the tune of 67 million crowns. This implies that the reversals of previously projected losses, but the hard-to-predict gains on financial items fell 71% on the year.
Total costs for the year came in at just below a target of 20.5 billion. And that excludes the expenses related to money-laundering investigations. The cost target is unchanged for 2022. But that does not cover a newly imposed bank tax in Sweden. As economic conditions have normalised, Swedbank has been lifting payouts to shareholders. The bank said that it was proposing a special dividend of 2 crowns per share, taking the total proposed payout for 2021 to 11.25 crowns per share.