BOV Chairman Gordon Cordina gave shareholders an overview of the current economic scenario and how this relates to the bank’s 2022 financial performance as well as its dividend decision.
He spoke at the bank’s shareholders during the 49th Annual General Meeting held on Thursday (today).
Dr Cordina highlighted the local economy’s growth, the current low unemployment rates, the slowdown in the rate of inflation, and the continued strength of the property market. Within this context, the bank’s strength was further emphasised, with the size of BOV’s balance sheet over 80 per cent of Malta’s GDP, and growing in line with the economy.
He shared that within this context, BOV’s strength is “further emphasised” when considering that the bank serves over 60 per cent of Malta’s population and, within the banking system, it accounts for 46 per cent of total deposits, 38 per cent of home loans, and 42 per cent of business loans. “This highlights the importance that the Bank plays in the local economy and its role in servicing such a large percentage of the population.”
Dr Cordina delved further into the bank’s decision to keep interest rates unchanged despite the pressure brought about by back-to-back increases by the European Central Bank. “The higher interest rate scenario brought income-earning opportunities to the bank from Treasury operations and the Euribor-linked segment of its credit portfolio. For as long as the bank continues to be sustained by a very substantial deposit base, it will not need to pass higher interest rates on to deposits and loans, particularly as the bank is now saving on the costs of excess liquidity which it used to incur in a negative interest rate scenario.”
Dr Cordina went on to say that “when setting its interest rate and product offering, BOV will remain committed to strike the right balance among all its stakeholders, while ensuring that changes are gradual and well communicated.”
He highlighted three important milestones achieved in 2022: closing off the Deiulemar litigation, Malta’s removal from the grey list by the FATF, and the successful issue of the Senior Callable Non-Preferred Notes on the international markets.
Looking forward, he told shareholders, the Board is fully committed to maximise shareholder value, balancing between short-term requirements for dividend distribution and long-term aspirations for business growth in an ever more exacting regulatory environment. “We are focused on fulfilling our unique role in Malta by focusing on our core activities to provide enhanced value, fortifying our risk management to meet evolving regulatory requirements, safeguarding the bank’s reputation and instilling ESG good practices.”
BOV CEO Kenneth Farrugia also addressed the AGM, sharing that the bank is in the process of developing a new strategy for the next three years.
Mr Farrugia shared the bank’s improvements throughout 2022, and also commented on its leadership initiatives on ESG matters, citing increasing efforts in embedding ESG within the operations and business of the bank. BOV’s aim, he shared, is to instil a sense of responsibility towards ESG in the bank’s everyday practices, among customers, staff members, and other stakeholders. Mr Farrugia referred, amongst others, to the branch renovation which is driven by the use of recyclable material and smart lighting, the introduction of highly favourable terms on eco-financing loan products for personal customers, and equally the introduction last December of a Business Energy Loan which comes with a fully subsidised interest rate for eligible corporate clients.
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