2019 was a year of considerable progress during which we achieved all the targets, both strategic and financial, that we set ourselves.
As a result, we substantially increased our capital ratio, which stood at 12.7% at the end of 2019. This was the priority target for 2019 in order to strengthen market confidence in our ability to absorb future regulatory impacts. In line with the commitments made, the dividend, proposed to the General Meeting on May 19th, will be EUR 2.20 per share in cash. We see this high dividend as a means of thanking our shareholders for their trust and loyalty.
Secondly, our results reflect both the healthy commercial momentum of our activities, our rigorous cost discipline and our good risk control. French Retail Banking enjoyed buoyant commercial activity throughout the year, with revenues and costs in line with our 2019 targets and resilient profitability. International Retail Banking & Financial Services confirmed its profitable growth potential in all its businesses and geographical regions. Global Banking & Investor Solutions successfully implemented its restructuring plan, above annual targets, while maintaining its franchises.
In particular, the fourth quarter was characterised by strong growth in revenues and underlying Group net income. Our underlying Group net income totalled EUR 875 million in Q4 19 and EUR 4.1 billion in 2019.
2019 saw the Group continue to strengthen its business model. We invested in our core franchises, while pursuing our refocusing plan, and continued to roll out new technologies in our businesses in order to enhance our customers’ experience. Lastly, we are, and will remain, fully committed to the sustainable development of our economies and aim to be a banking leader in the area of responsible finance. Our commitments and actions are recognised by external bodies and the annual ranking by RobecoSAM(*) for 2019 ranks us No. 1 bank globally on environmental issues.
We are therefore entering 2020 with confidence, with a more compact business model based on leadership positions in high added-value businesses and a presence in buoyant geographical regions. We intend to capitalise on the robustness of this model to pursue the expansion of our core franchises and improve our profitability, by increasing our efforts in terms of operational efficiency and disciplined cost management. We are confirming our commitment to create value for our shareholders. In 2020, we aim to increase earnings per share and tangible net asset value per share. We are adjusting our dividend policy, with the aim of distributing 50% of underlying Group net income, a figure which could include up to 10%, i.e. a fifth of the amount paid back to shareholders, in share buybacks.
More than ever, our ambitions around the use of digital technologies in order to better serve our customers and the deepening of our CSR commitment are at the centre of our strategic approach. As we have just reaffirmed in our raison d’être, we are determined to build a better and sustainable future with our customers, shareholders and employees.
Once again, I would like to thank you for your loyalty and the trust you have placed in our Group.”
Chief Executive Officer
(*) Every year, in conjunction with the S&P Dow Jones Indices, RobecoSAM publishes a ranking of the world's largest companies based on economic, environmental and social factors.
2019 Full-Year Results in a Nutshell
1. 2019 revenues totalled EUR 24.7 billion with a resilient performance in all the businesses
International Retail Banking & Financial Services enjoyed a healthy commercial momentum, with revenues increasing +4.6%* in 2019 to EUR 8.4 billion.
As part of its refocusing programme, the Group made a number of disposals, with the loss of revenues more than offset by the healthy commercial momentum observed throughout the year.
International Retail Banking’s net banking income totalled EUR 5.6 billion, up +5.6%* driven by the momentum in all regions : +7.8%* for SG Russia, +6.9%* in Africa, Mediterranean Basin and French Overseas Territories and +4.0%* in Europe. The Insurance business and Financial Services also enjoyed higher revenues (+2.9%*) with, in particular, substantial growth in life insurance abroad, an increase in ALD’s vehicle fleet and a higher margin in Equipment Finance.
The profitability of these businesses remains high with underlying RONE of 17.9% in 2019.
Against the backdrop of a low interest rate environment and the transformation of the French networks, French Retail Banking revenues were slightly higher than the target, with an increase of 0.3% to EUR 7.9 billion, excluding the PEL/CEL provision.
The three brands (Societe Generale, Crédit du Nord and Boursorama) enjoyed a healthy commercial momentum in 2019. Boursorama consolidated its position as the leading online bank in France, with more than 2.1 million clients. French Retail Banking expanded its business among mass affluent and wealthy clients, and continued to strengthen its corporate client base. The Group continued to adapt its operational set-up, in parallel with the digital transformation process. Accordingly, Societe Generale continued to roll out its specific facilities for the corporate sector and professionals. It now has 19 regional business centres, 116 “Pro Corners” (espaces pro) in branches and 10 dedicated “Pro Corners”. Average loan outstandings climbed +6.4% vs. Q4 18 to EUR 201.5 billion, underpinned by the favourable momentum in housing loans, consumer loans and investment loans.
French Retail Banking enjoyed resilient profitability, with underlying RONE of 11.1% in 2019.
Global Banking & Investor Solutions’ revenues totalled EUR 8.7 billion, down -1.6% in 2019. Excluding the impact of restructuring and the disposal of Private Banking in Belgium, they were up +0.9%.
In 2019, Global Banking & Investor Solutions successfully implemented its restructuring plan. As a result, the target of reducing risk-weighted assets by 2020 was already achieved in Q3 2019. 44% of the EUR 500 million of cost savings have already been achieved, ahead of the announced trajectory, with the total secured for 2020.
When adjusted for restructuring, the revenues of Global Markets & Investor Services were down -1.6% in 2019, with an increase of +17.5% in the last quarter.
Financing & Advisory revenues increased by +3.3% vs.2018, driven by the healthy commercial momentum of financing activities and the transaction banking businesses.
Asset and Wealth Management’s revenues were up +1.2% in 2019 (excluding the impact of the disposal of Private Banking in Belgium) with, in particular, good inflow for Private Banking in France and the positive contribution of Commerzbank’s assets at Lyxor.
2. In 2019, underlying operating expenses declined -1% to EUR 17.4 billion and the commercial cost of risk remained low (25 basis points).
In Q4 2019, the Group’s underlying operating expenses were 0.7% lower. Over the same period, revenues were 4.8% higher.
The Group is working to reduce its operating expenses and around 70% of the multi-annual programme to reduce costs by EUR 1.1 billion has already been achieved.
3. Underlying Group net income totalled EUR 4.1 billion in 2019.
(*) When adjusted for changes in Group structure and at constant exchange rates