France's SocGen seeks to boost investment bank returns

SocGen would target a more sustained and profitable growth of its corporate and investment banking businesses

  
A man passes by the logo on the headquarters of French bank Societe Generale at the financial and business district of La Defense at Puteaux near Paris, outside Paris, France, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau - RC1EF424F900

A man passes by the logo on the headquarters of French bank Societe Generale at the financial and business district of La Defense at Puteaux near Paris, outside Paris, France, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau - RC1EF424F900

Charles Platiau - RC1EF424F900

PARIS - France's third biggest listed bank Societe Generale said it plans to pare back its risk exposure in its global markets business and focus more on financing and advising on deals under a revamp of its investment bank announced on Monday.

The lender is looking to boost profitability in the division and stabilise revenues, after its flagship equities business, long a strength, was hit hard in the COVID-19 pandemic last year when companies suspended or cancelled dividends.

SocGen said it would target a more sustained and profitable growth of its corporate and investment banking businesses with a rebalancing between market activities, its more profitable but riskiest franchise, and financing and M&A advisory.

The French bank said it targeted a return on normative equity of over 10% in its global banking and investors solutions businesses from 2023, up from 7% now.

The lender also said it targeted a cost base of between 5.5 to 5.7 billion euros ($6.93 billion) in 2023 its global banking and investors solutions businesses, from around 5.8 billion euros in 2020, as it presses on with previously announced savings.

SocGen's chief executive Frederic Oudea has accelerated an overall revamp of businesses underway since 2018, in one of his last chances to shore up his legacy before his term expires in 2023.

The bank's shares have risen 46% so far this year after falling near 30-year lows in 2020, boosted by a rebound in its markets business and expectations loan losses caused by the pandemic will be lower than previously forecast.

But SocGen's market value is still less than half what it was when Oudea took over in 2008 in the wake of the huge losses on equity derivatives caused by rogue trader Jerome Kerviel. ($1 = 0.8223 euros)

(Reporting by Matthieu Protard and Sudip Kar-Gupta, Editing by Sarah White) ((matthieu.protard@thomsonreuters.com; +33-1-49495381;))

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