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iFast Q1 profit down 41.8% amid weak revenue growth, higher expenses

WEALTH management fintech platform iFast Corporation on Saturday posted a 41.8 per cent decline in its bottom line to S$1.6 million for the three months ended March 31, from a net profit of S$2.75 million in the year-ago period.

This translates to an earnings per share of 0.60 Singapore cent for the first quarter, compared to 1.04 Singapore cent in the previous year.

The board has declared an interim dividend per share of 0.75 Singapore cent for the first quarter, the same as fiscal 2018’s Q1.

The group said it started 2019 with weak revenue and profitability in January and February, “following an extended period of poor financial market conditions” between Q2 2018 and the end of 2018. This resulted in total net revenue growing by only 4.4 per cent year on year in the first quarter of this year.

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Profit before tax fell 37.5 per cent year on year, as a result of the weak revenue growth in the early part of this year and its efforts in investing for ongoing growth, it said.

Recurring net revenue rose 8.8 per cent, but non-recurring net revenue saw a 13.2 per cent decline from a year ago.

Total operating expenses for Q1 increased 13.4 per cent from the year-ago period, due to continued efforts to strengthen the range of products and services it offers, said iFast.

The group’s assets under administration (AUA) was at a record high of S$8.75 billion as at March 31, increasing by 8.7 per cent from S$8.05 billion at the end of 2018.

Looking forward, the group expects its revenue and profitability to improve in the second quarter compared to the first quarter, barring unforeseen circumstances.

In a report on Tuesday, DBS Equity Research maintained its "hold" call on iFast with a reduced target price of S$1.05 from S$1.19 previously.

Near-term market volatility will continue to affect iFast, while its China operation is still expected to be loss-making, DBS analyst Ling Lee Keng said.

For the longer term, iFast has made significant progress in the last two to three years by broadening the range of investment products and services on its platforms, and by laying the infrastructure to kickstart its business in China, the analyst said.

DBS maintained its growth assumption of 5 per cent per annum for iFast's AUA for fiscal 2019 and 2020. "We believe there is still room for growth as the current AUA level remains small, at about 1 per cent of the asset management industry in Singapore," the analyst said.

iFast shares were trading flat at S$1.12 as at 11.52am on Tuesday.