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Macquarie sticks to lower profit guidance, preps for low-carbon projects

It expects a profit decline in 2020, hit by lower gains from investment banking

Sydney

AUSTRALIAN financial conglomerate Macquarie Group disappointed some analysts and investors on Tuesday by sticking to guidance that it expected a profit decline in full-year 2020, hit by lower gains from investment banking.

In a limited third-quarter trading update, it pointed to higher fee income from its asset management and lending businesses and flagged low-carbon opportunities at its energy trading unit, but said its investment banking operations had a "significant" decline in their contribution to profit.

The guidance came as the bank reported Q3 results showing earnings from its fund-management business, which contributes more than a third to its profit, rose on higher base and performance fees in the nine months to Dec 30.

Its home-loan portfolio posted a rise of 11 per cent in earnings during the third quarter, to A$48.6 billion (S$45.3 billion). But its investing banking businesses had completed fewer merger and acquisitions and capital market transactions than in the previous corresponding period, the bank added.

"There is no doubt the market was expecting them to up their guidance a little bit, so there is some disappointment by the market," said Matthew Ryland, a portfolio manager at Greencape Capital, a Macquarie investor. "But that said, they are cycling a big spike in realisations last year and I do have some sympathy for that."

The bank's trading unit, Commodities and Global Markets (CGM), had a "strong" performance during the quarter across its global oil, North American gas and power, and metals and agriculture businesses, it said.

The bank, already one of the world's largest energy traders, believed there was "significant upside and potential to grow" into adjacent areas, CGM head Nicholas O'Kane told the operational briefing. That included development of carbon-offset energy products in response to client demand, he added.

Macquarie is working to set up jet fuel contracts with integrated carbon offsets, developing carbon-neutral barrels of oil and carbon-neutral aircraft, besides working with a ride-share company to include a carbon offset option into the app, he said.

In November, the Sydney-based company posted a record first-half profit, driven by higher fund-management fee and investment gains from asset sales.

The bank's asset management business, its biggest earnings contributor, saw assets under management rise 5 per cent as of Dec 31 to A$587.5 billion, compared with the September quarter. REUTERS