BNP Paribas surmounted the 6.6 billion euro ($8.9 billion) fine imposed by US authorities to post profits in 2014, the French bank said Thursday, but warned tightening business conditions could undermine future results.
BNP Paribas said it turned a 157 million euro profit ($179.2 million) in 2014 despite the record fine imposed by the US Justice Department for violating international sanctions by doing business with Iran, Cuba, Sudan and other regimes targeted by embargoes.
According to an average of analysts' forecasts by financial data company FactSet, the bank's 2014 profit more than tripled the 50 million euros BNP Paribas-watchers had been expecting.
The bank said in a statement that 2014 revenues rose to 39.2 billion euros, up 2 percent on the year, which also exceeded average analyst expectations of 38.8 billion.
Excluding one-off items, pre-tax profit increased 8.9 percent in 2014 to 1.3 billion euros. The bank's net profit for the fourth quarter alone stood at 1.3 billion euros.
The results not only surpassed analysts' anticipations, but took many market observers by surprise, given the controversial American fine that some feared would sink the bank into the red.
"Revenues increased in all operational sectors, (and) the positive business dynamic testifies to the confidence of institutional clients, companies, and individuals," said BNP Paribas general director Jean-Laurent Bonnafe.
But even in closing out that painful American episode with a profit, Bonnafe warned that some of the bank's targets heading towards 2016 would be difficult to fullfil, due to the slowing international economic environment, and application of post-financial-crisis regulations.
"The circumstances we find ourselves in are difficult, so we have to be better to attain our objectives," Bonnafe told a press conference Thursday. "There are head winds, and side winds."
Among those, Bonnafe noted, are new taxes, regulations, and increased capital reserve levels being applied across the banking sector in Europe, and the tightening of operating rules for foreign banks in the US.
Those are expected to cost BNP Paribas 500 million euros annually, and slice 0.7 percent off the bank's return on equity performance, which would complicate its target of reaching at least 10 percent ROE in 2016.
That news -- in addition to the European Central Bank's decision restricting funding to Greek banks, and signs BNP Paribas' Italian affiliate continues to struggle -- sent the bank's stock price falling on the Paris Bourse, where it had slid by 4.30 percent to 46.70 euros Thursday afternoon.