National Australia Bank posted a 22 percent slump in full-year net profit Wednesday as millions of dollars in costs from its struggling British operations weighed on the bottom line.
Australia's fourth biggest lender booked a profit of Aus$4.1 billion (US$4.22 billion) for the 12 months to September 30, from Aus$5.22 billion in the previous year. It was its first fall in profits since 2009.
Cash earnings, which strip out volatile items and are the measure more closely watched by analysts, dropped 0.5 percent to Aus$5.4 billion over the same period.
The result included a Aus$250 million provision for bad debts at its British arm, particularly the Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks, plus impairment and restructuring costs.
NAB's share price fell more than one percent in early trading, but recovered to be down just 0.19 percent at Aus$25.83 by midday.
Chief executive Cameron Clyne said NAB's Australian and New Zealand businesses posted improved performances, but that was overshadowed by problems in Britain.
"The group result reflects both the strength of the core Australian and New Zealand banking businesses and ongoing challenges in the UK," he said.
Earlier this year, NAB said it was planning to restructure its British arm, slashing more than 1,400 jobs by 2015 due to weak economic conditions.
"Hopefully we are seeing the bottom of the cycle in the UK," Clyne added and said he intended to stick with the businesses as shareholders did not want the British banks sold for a loss.
"None of us are happy with the performance, but they don't want to see the business fire-sold," he said.
"We are entirely in agreement with them and we will trade that business until we get better returns."
Analysts, though, said the profit drop was disappointing.
"Our patience is wearing thin as the UK operations continue to drag on group earnings," said Morningstar analyst David Ellis.
Credit Suisse analyst James Ellis added: "The result reaffirms our caution based on NAB's UK exposures, with UK impaired loans rising, UK margins declining and the pension deficit rising."
Clyne said economic conditions in Australia would be challenging in fiscal 2013, with consumer sentiment low and business conditions weak, but that was not expected to cause a spike in bad debt costs in NAB's domestic business.
"We are not by any means seeing a marked rise (in bad debt costs), but it is reflecting that businesses have been dealing with subdued conditions for some years now, and we are just seeing a slightly worse (economic) outlook for 2013," he said.
The bank declared a full-year dividend of Aus$1.80 a share, up eight cents from a year earlier.