US Federal Reserve Board Terminates Enforcement Actions with HBL

On September 29, 2020, the US Federal Reserve Board announced the termination of enforcement actions with Habib Bank Limited Pakistan and Habib Bank Limited New York Branch, dating from 2015 as per the Federal Reserve Board Press Release.

Earlier this year, in February, Habib Bank Limited (HBL) had announced that it will complete the voluntary closure of its New York branch in March in compliance with the US banking regulations, but continue to use correspondent banking network for foreign transactions.

“On March 31, 2020, Habib Bank Limited (HBL) will complete the orderly wind-down and voluntary closure of its New York branch,” the bank said in a statement. “The wind-down has been undertaken in coordination with the New York state banking regulators, subject to the New York banking laws and regulations.”

HBL said the bank agreed to regulators in the US to conduct a systematic wind-down of the bank’s affairs in New York. “Following the voluntary closure of its New York Branch, HBL will no longer operate any bank branch in the United States,” it added. “However, the bank will continue to service its clients’ US dollar banking requirements, in Pakistan and other countries where it operates, through its network of correspondent banks.”

HBL, the country’s biggest bank in terms of assets, agreed to pay $225 million fine to a US authority in 2017 for not complying with the rules related to reporting of transactions.

Today (Wednesday), another press release issued by the bank said, HBL wishes to thank the Federal Reserve Board, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) and the State Bank of Pakistan, for their support in bringing this matter to a close.

HBL has worked diligently to improve its control and compliance processes and systems as part of its business transformation program, that began in early 2018. The Bank is committed to ongoing focus on compliance protocols to ensure adherence to international standards, including the Wolfsberg principles. Compliance with these standards and protocols is not just a one-off project but a sustained effort that governs the way we do business.

The Bank continues to service its clients’ US Dollar banking requirements, in Pakistan and other countries where it operates, through its network of correspondent banks.

On the financial side of the bank itself, analysts believe that HBL’s operating expenses are normalizing after the closure of NY branch and tail end of the business transformation investment. Besides this, the bank benefits from gains on the Public Information Book (PIB) and a considerable reduction in the FX position. HBL’s net profit is expected to grow by 77% in 2020. KASB Research said, “Our price target implies 34% upside. Our estimates are 14% and 3% above market consensus for 2020 and 2021, respectively”.

HBL incurred $30 million upfront in closure related costs during 1Q20. In 2Q20 it incurred additional $5 million due to this. “We expect these one-off costs to further decline 3Q-4Q20 and a complete wind down by the end of the year. Along with this, the business transformation program which started in 2018 has also been completed. We expect cost to income to decline to 62% next year compared to 74% in 2019,” the analyst report said.

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