SocGen posts second straight quarterly loss as it readies trading business revamp

PARIS Societe Generale SA (SocGen) reported a 1.26 billion euro ($1.48 billion) second-quarter loss on Monday, as it booked a writedown on the value of its trading business that it seeks to revamp.

France’s third-biggest bank by market capitalisation said it would reduce the risk profile of its trading unit in a shift costing 200 million to 250 million euros in lost revenue, though it pledged to maintain its equity structured products business.

SocGen has struggled to perform in businesses it wants to keep, such as equities trading, in a blow to efforts of Chief Executive Frederic Oudea to boost profitability.

It surprised investors with a first-quarter loss after revenue was wiped out at its equity trading division due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Second-quarter revenue fell 80% in equity trading, and rose 38% in fixed income trading.

SocGen’s share price, which at Friday’s close was down 58% year-to-date, opened 3.4% lower on Monday.

“Low core profitability remains a challenge for SocGen,” analysts at Credit Suisse said in a note.

SocGen’s investment bank has been traditionally weighted toward equities trading rather than fixed income, and for decades has been a top player in equity derivatives belying its relatively small size. It had a more than 10% market share in equity structured products in 2015-2018, SocGen said citing Coalition data.

SocGen on Monday said as a result of its review, it would “maintain worldwide leadership in equity structured products” and “derisk” auto-callable products while developing a new generation of products.

Investors facing record-low yields have been increasingly chasing higher returns via complex derivatives, such as auto-callable notes, or autocalls. The activity is lucrative in good times but can leave banks vulnerable to volatility and increased hedging costs during times of crisis.

“The Group will continue to adapt its activities to the new post-COVID crisis environment, extending in particular the efforts to reduce costs,” Oudea said in a statement on Monday.

The bank said a review of the financial trajectory of its Global Markets and Investors Services (GIMS) unit, which includes fixed income and equity trading, led to the impairment of related goodwill of 684 million euros and deferred tax assets of 650 million euros.

SocGen reported a 15.7% drop in second-quarter revenue to 5.3 billion euros, versus the 5.44 billion euro average of five analyst estimates in a Reuters poll.

The bank also multiplied by four the amount of provisions for loans that could turn sour because of the COVID-19 pandemic.