Malta, 29 May 2020: The Bank has continued to focus on its speciality business model as a niche lender and facilitator to traders in the international supply chain of commodities. Looking back at the results of 2019, the Bank generated a net profit before tax of US$ 1.8 million, 8% higher than the forecast for the year despite competitive pressures on interest margin. Operating income before trading gains and losses for 2019 amounted to US$ 6.9 million. Throughout the year, the Bank maintained a high level of liquidity with deposit liabilities remaining well in excess of its business funding requirements.
The Bank's income was also boosted by positive revaluation gains on its bond trading portfolio, especially during the last two months of the year when the markets rallied on the back of the Fed's decision to cut interest rates and to resume its treasury securities purchase programme to ease some softness in the US economic scene.
The Bank's net assets contracted during 2019 to a level of US$ 148 million. The contraction in assets, and the shift to hold liquidity with higher quality counterparties, namely holding excess liquidity with the Central Bank of Malta has improved the Bank's capital and liquidity ratios significantly. The Capital Adequacy Ratio as at end of year rose to 19.6% and Liquidity coverage ratio stood at 367%.
In the initial months of this year, the Bank has continued to generate a steady income from its loyal customer base that ensures a flow of interest and commission income. These past 4 months have posed an unprecedented challenge to everyone and the bank is not immune, however our experience so far has actually demonstrated the resilience of business from trade of essential commodities despite the measures being taken by governments to safeguard their population and control the spread of the pandemic, case in point the total lockdown in India. The production of foodstuffs continues undeterred, but there is some disruption in the transport, storage and delivery infrastructure. Some governments have even taken protective measures by blocking and hindering exports. In our opinion, such measures are extreme and reactionary, but very short lived.
By and large, most of our clients continue to conduct business regularly. As estimated by the World Trade Organisation, a potential decline of 13 - 32% in global merchandise trade is expected in 2020. We therefore expect to experience lower volumes of trade into the second and third quarters of 2020, but then envisage volume to pick up again in the last quarter, as governments realise that hindering trade flows may pose a greater threat to the wellbeing of their population than the pandemic ever would.