2014 was an eventful year for our Group, with the celebration of our 150 years, the presentation of our strategic plan and the introduction of the European Banking Union. 2014 was also marked by a particularly challenging geopolitical, economic and financial environment. Against this backdrop, the Group embarked on a far-reaching transformation, supported by a solid balance sheet and capital position. All the businesses demonstrated a good commercial dynamism.
In France, despite a third consecutive year of virtual stagnation in the economy, the retail banking networks posted another very solid performance, based notably on the attention paid to satisfying our customers and our advance in the area of digital innovation. A record number of accounts were opened for the Group’s three retail banking networks (221,000 during the year). Accordingly, Boursorama exceeded the threshold of 600,000 customers in France. French Retail Banking continued to assist both businesses and individuals with the financing of their projects: for example, new corporate loan business was 0.5% higher in 2014.
The revenues of our International Retail Banking & Financial Services division were slightly higher (+1.5%) driven by improved performances in Europe, solid results in Africa, as well as dynamic activity in Financial Services and Insurance. In Russia, against the backdrop of a deteriorated geopolitical and economic environment, revenues were resilient in 2014, the balance sheet structure was strengthened and the risk reduction programme was successfully implemented. Overall, and excluding the goodwill write-down, Russia generated slightly positive earnings.
The Global Banking & Investor Solutions division was characterised by particularly resilient revenues over the long-term despite a challenging and volatile environment. This solidity was recognised by Risk magazine, which awarded it three prizes in 2014 and described Societe Generale’s investment bank as “profitable, stable and focused on its clients and services”. Global Markets’ revenues held up well in a challenging market, while Financing & Advisory enjoyed strong growth (+12.4%).
The development plans announced during Investor Day are being implemented in each of the businesses and are starting to bear fruit.
In addition, our cost savings plan announced in 2013 is on track and we have already secured more than 80% of the savings that we expected. Cost control efforts undertaken over several years and the effectiveness of the cost savings plan resulted in operating expenses declining 1.9% in 2014.
The healthy commercial momentum of all our businesses, control of operating expenses and the sharp decline in the commercial cost of risk resulted in the Group generating income of EUR 2,692 million.
This result has helped strengthen our capital: our Common Equity Tier One ratio therefore stands at 10.1%.
Our Group’s good state of health is reflected in the growth of tangible net asset value per share, with an increase of 5.3% in 2014, to EUR 51.43.
Based on these results, we will propose the payment of a dividend of EUR 1.20 per share, payable in cash, to the Annual General Meeting. This represents a 20% increase compared with 2013. The payout ratio therefore amounts to 40% of full-year profits. The dividend yield comes out at 3.4%.
The Group aims to maintain the pace of its transformation in 2015. It intends to pursue the rollout of its strategic plan, supported by the effective organisational structure in place, enhanced governance and its teams’ commitment to serving its customers. It will pay particular attention to the businesses’ revenue growth, the continued implementation of its cost savings plan and the optimisation of capital allocation between the businesses. Another priority is using capital generation in a balanced manner, between growth and providing a return to the shareholder. It is aiming for a payout ratio of 50% in 2015.
I would like to thank you for your loyalty and the trust you have placed in our Group.
Frédéric Oudéa, Chairman and CEO