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Republic Bank Headquarters, Park Street, Port-of-Spain.

President of Republic Financial Holdings Ltd RFHL) Nigel Baptiste has announced a profit attributable to shareholders of the parent company of $543 million for the six-month period ended March 31, a decline of $240 million or 30.6 per cent below the corresponding period last year.

In a statement the bank said these results reflect preliminary estimates of the financial impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the group as a result of increased operating expenses during the latter half of March 2020 and the setting aside of additional provisions of $367.7 million for the first half of fiscal 2020 (2019—$134.7 million) to cover potential future losses.

Baptiste noted that total assets stood at $98.4 billion at March 31, 2020, an increase of $15 billion or 17.9 per cent over the total assets at March 31, 2019 reflecting mainly the acquisition of Scotiabank’s operations in St. Maarten and the Eastern Caribbean (except Antigua and Barbuda) on November 1, 2019 which added $12.7 billion to the Group’s asset base.

The acquisition of Scotiabank’s banking operations in the British Virgin Islands remains ongoing, with the group presently engaged with the regulator in that territory to obtain the requisite approval.

“Cognisant of our responsibility to help our clients, staff, and communities navigate these unique challenges, the Group instituted several measures, including loan payment moratoriums, waiver of fees and charges, and interest rate reductions on loans and advances including credit cards.

“The group has also contributed a total of US$2 million to national COVID-19 initiatives across the territories in which we operate,” Baptiste said.

Stressing the importance of a prudent approach given the many uncertainties as a result of the current pandemic, Baptiste added that notwithstanding the public health measures implemented to date, there is uncertainty globally in respect of the intensity and duration of this crisis.

“It is unclear what the social, economic and market conditions will be like once the crisis is over.

“Prudence requires therefore, that financial institutions adopt a defensive posture to preserve the stability of individual institutions and the integrity of the overall financial system,” Baptiste said.

Therefore, he noted that until the full repercussions are clearer, and to preserve the capital available to the Group, the Board of directors has declared a reduced interim dividend of $0.60 (2019: $1.25) per share payable on June 5, 2020.

“Republic Financial Holdings is well-placed to make a major contribution to the regional recovery effort and is fully committed to doing so.

“We will seek to balance the interests of all our stakeholders as we all shoulder the responsibility of restoring sustainable growth to the territories in which we operate,” Baptiste added.