July 3, 2020 / 4:42 PM / a month ago

South Africa's Capitec forecasts 70% profit fall in blow to shares

Customers queue to draw money from an ATM outside a branch of South Africa's Capitec Bank in Johannesburg,South Africa, March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/Files

(Reuters) - Capitec Bank forecast a fall of at least 70% in first-half earnings on Friday due to a spike in bad loans from the coronavirus crisis, the first major South African lender to detail its full effect.

Concerns over a jump in bad loans after a nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus have hit South African banks and Capitec’s shares, which were already down 42% so far this year, were 2.5% lower at 1359 GMT.

Capitec, which had forecast a drop of at least 20% in first-half profit in May, said it expects headline earnings per share, the main profit measure for South African firms, to fall by more than 1,782 cents from the 2,545 cents it reported for the six months to the end of August 2019.

The bank said its credit impairment charge was 145% higher than forecast, mainly due to 5.75 billion rand ($338 million) and 236 million rand in retail and business credit balances being rescheduled or granted payment breaks due to the lockdown.

Capitec said in a statement that it does not expect to return to pre-lockdown levels of credit sales before the start of its next financial year.

“We do, however, believe that the results for the second half of the 2021 financial year could return to normal levels,” it added.

Major banks across the United States and Britain have set aside billions of dollars in provisions to handle loans that sour as customers become unable to make payments as a result of unemployment triggered by the coronavirus crisis.

($1 = 17.0275 rand)

Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru and Emma Rumney in Johannesburg; Editing by Susan Fenton and Alexander Smith

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