Message from the Chairman
I am very pleased to report another strong year of growth for the Bank during 2004/2005, despite increased competition in the financial services sector and expectations throughout the year of slower economic growth. This excellent result was achieved as the Bank continued to progress the Which new Bank program to transform the customer service experience. We are now well established to meet and, in many cases exceed, targets set at the commencement of the program in September 2003, and have laid a strong strategic platform for future growth.
The Bank reported a statutory full year net profit after tax (NPAT) of $3,991 million for the year ended 30 June 2005, an increase of 55% over the previous year. Cash net profit (NPAT excluding appraisal value uplift and goodwill amortisation) increased 31% to $3,538 million, which is at the upper end of guidance provided to the market in February 2005. On an underlying basis, which excludes Which new Bank expenses and Shareholder Investment Returns, NPAT rose 13% to $3,466 million for the full year.
These results were achieved by strong revenue growth in a very competitive market and broadly flat expenses. The Bank is well on track to meet its commitment made at the start of Which new Bank to achieve between 4% and 6% compound annual growth productivity improvements over the three years of the program on a cash basis.
A favourable Banking result was achieved for the year, supported by strong growth in home and personal lending. The net interest margin has been stable for the last three half years, with margin contraction for the full year of eight basis points to 2.45%, well within the Bank’s expectations. This was a particularly good outcome, given increased competition across lending and deposit products. Loan asset quality continued to be well managed, in line with the Bank’s risk management policies.
The Fund Management business recorded a 28% increase in underlying NPAT reflecting growth in Funds under Administration supported by favourable investment markets. FirstChoice again achieved excellent flows, particularly in the retail segment due to competitive pricing, superior service and extensive distribution. Investment performance also stood out, with 95% of retail domestic funds outperforming the benchmark on a one year basis.
The Bank’s Insurance business delivered a strong result for the year in both its Australian and international operations. The Australian insurance business maintained its number one market position in life risk premiums with 13.8% market share. The New Zealand business, operating under the Sovereign brand, improved volumes across all major business lines and experienced a positive claims result for the year.
The Bank’s international banking, funds management and insurance businesses continued to grow and develop, providing the Bank with opportunities for expansion in select markets in the future.
Commonwealth Bank acquired interests in two banks in China during the year – an 11% interest in Jinan City Commercial Bank and a 19.9% interest in Hangzhou City Commercial Bank (subject to regulatory approval). PT Bank Commonwealth (PTBC), our Indonesian banking business, has been operating since 1997 and continues to attract new customers. Australian customers of Commonwealth Bank can now access their funds from any of PTBCs 12 ATMs located in Jakarta, Bali, Surabaya and Bandung. This is a valuable service for the growing number of Australians working and travelling throughout Indonesia. The Bank has also established a representative office in Bangalore, India.
These interests are low risk growth options which position us well for future growth in the region’s key markets.
Dividends and Capital
The Bank paid another record dividend to Shareholders with the full year dividend payment totalling 197 cents per share, an increase of 14 cents per share on the previous year. This is the 13th year of increases in the full year dividend payment to Shareholders since the Bank was privatised. The full year dividend payout ratio (cash basis) is 73.9%, consistent with the 2003/2004 payout ratio which excluded Which new Bank expenses. This is an outstanding result for Shareholders.
The final dividend payment of $1.12 per share, fully franked, will be paid to Shareholders on 23 September 2005. The Bank continues to issue new shares to satisfy the requirements of the Dividend Reinvestment Plan, which is capped at 10,000 shares per shareholder.
During the year, dividend payments were also made to the holders of PERLS, PERLS II, Trust Preferred Securities, ASB Capital preference shares and ASB Capital No. 2 preference shares.
The Bank maintained its strong capital position during the year with capital ratios sitting above the Bank’s target minimum ratios. Credit ratings remain unchanged and were re-affirmed by the major ratings agencies in June 2005.
Two capital management initiatives undertaken during the year were well received by the market and provide additional capital flexibility for the Bank in the future. These included the issue of NZ$350 million of Perpetual Preference Shares in December 2004 by ASB Capital No. 2 Limited and an issue of NZ$350 million of Redeemable Preference Shares by CBA Capital Australia Limited in May 2005.
Which new Bank
The Bank made significant progress with Which new Bank during the year, meeting all critical milestones set for 2004/2005 and many initiatives exceeding expectations. Net benefits for the year totalled $724 million, well in excess of the $620 million expected for the year.
Considerable progress was made across many initiatives and highlights are detailed in the Message from the CEO.
Which new Bank is a three year program which now has significant momentum. It has been a time of transformational change for the Bank and I am pleased with our progress at a time of enormous change for our people. The Which new Bank program as originally formulated is to conclude during 2006 and the Bank is now working on further initiatives which will ensure that customer service enhancements will continue as more systems and processes are refined and our people remain committed to providing customers with a better service.
From an international perspective, we anticipate continuing respectable economic growth and strong commodity prices. Although domestic growth has slowed, a combination of widespread investment in capacity expansion, and favourable terms of trade together suggest some pick up in growth. Progress of the domestic economy is therefore contingent upon continuing strong terms of trade and the success of business investment.
Australia’s fiscal position, credit quality, employment levels and business confidence are strong and provide a positive overall environment for financial services businesses. Robust demand for business credit is helping offset the continuing moderation of demand for housing credit from its record peak. Competition across the banking industry, particularly for deposits, is likely to continue, with margins declining generally in line with experience in recent years.
In February 2005, the Bank increased its expected compound annual growth rate in cash earnings per share for the period 2003 to 2006 from exceeding 10% per annum to exceeding 12% per annum. Subject to market conditions, the Bank remains committed to at least achieving this goal. For the 2006 fiscal year, the Bank remains confident that the momentum within the business from Which new Bank will ensure that the Bank delivers EPS growth which equals or exceeds the average of its peers. As a consequence, the Bank expects dividend per share to further increase in the 2006 fiscal year subject to the factors considered in its dividend policy.
The Bank continues to place great emphasis on its responsibilities for good corporate governance, and always strives to increase shareholder value. Recent increases in demands for compliance with corporate governance requirements have placed pressure on corporate resources and precious management time. While appropriate levels of regulation are needed, I am concerned that the current rate of growth in regulation hinders the ability of businesses to compete and prosper. The Bank will continue to find the right balance to have excellent corporate governance while striving for innovation and growth to benefit shareholders.
September 2005 also marks David Murray’s retirement after 39 years of service to the Commonwealth Bank, the past 13 years as Chief Executive Officer. David and the Board considered that this was an appropriate time for a new Chief Executive Officer to be appointed, with the Which new Bank program on track for completion during 2006 and sufficient time for the new CEO to develop the Bank’s future strategy.
The Bank has undergone enormous change under David’s leadership. David took the Bank from a partly privatised company with a market capitalisation of $6 billion in 1992 to a fully integrated financial services provider with a market capitalisation of around $50 billion in 2005. Shareholder value has grown over David’s 13 year term as CEO with Total Shareholder Returns (including gross dividend payments) of more than 24% per annum (compound annual growth), an outstanding achievement for a public company to attain over an extended period.
Significant milestones occurred under David’s leadership, including full privatisation, the integration of State Bank of Victoria and the merger with Colonial Limited in 2000. The introduction and development of CommSec, the Bank’s on line broker, and NetBank also occurred during David’s time as CEO.
The Board, and myself as Chairman, would like to personally thank David for his commitment and contribution to the Bank and for the substantial legacy he leaves. David’s commitment to the Commonwealth Bank has been outstanding and his distinguished career serves as a role model, not only to our people, but to all those who have chosen a career in the financial services industry.
Ralph Norris will commence as Chief Executive Officer and Managing
Director of the Bank from close of business on 22 September 2005. Ralph
joins us from Air New Zealand Limited where he was Managing Director
and Chief Executive Officer from February 2002 to August 2005. He has
twice been honoured with New Zealand’s Executive of the Year – in 1997
while at ASB Bank and in 2004 while at Air New Zealand. From 1991 to
2001 Ralph was Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ASB
Bank Limited, the Bank’s New Zealand banking operation. Ralph oversaw
tremendous growth while at ASB, increasing market share, expanding the
footprint of the business and growing its profitability. It is in view
of these exceptional achievements that the Board has every confidence
in Ralph’s track record and his ability to lead the Bank beyond Which
10 August 2005Return to top of page