Brazil digital bank Inter&Co beats profit forecasts in fourth quarter By Reuters

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SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian digital bank Inter&Co reported on Wednesday a better-than-expected five-fold increase in fourth-quarter net profit as it cut costs and focused its lending portfolio on more profitable categories.

The Nasdaq-listed bank, which counts Japanese technology investor Softbank (OTC:) among its main shareholders, posted a net profit of 160 million reais ($32.2 million), up from 29 million reais a year earlier. Analysts polled by LSEG expected fourth-quarter profit from 2023 to land at 139 million reais.

Chief Financial Officer Santiago Stel told Reuters factors such as a better efficiency ratio – a measure of the bank’s expenses relative to its revenues – which improved 1 percentage point from the previous quarter, helped the firm to boost profits.

Inter&Co’s return on equity stood at 8.5% in the fourth quarter, higher than 5.7% in the third quarter and 1.6% in the fourth quarter of 2022.

The lender has been focusing on cutting costs and concentrating its credit portfolio on more profitable categories, including home equity and payroll loans.

The value of its gross loan book rose more than 26% year-on-year in the quarter to reach 31 billion reais, and its 90-day non-performing loans ratio was down slightly, by 0.1 percentage point, from the previous quarter to settle at 4.6%.

Inter&Co last year released operational and financial targets – which the company says is different from guidance – for 2027 that include doubling its current 30 million costumer base as well as reaching a 30% return on equity.

Sell-side analysts, however, have been cautious on the firm’s ability to achieve these goals.

Stel described the bank’s 2023 performance as “better than expected,” adding that this year started with a “positive dynamic.”

In January, the lender raised about $140 million with a share offer, which according to the financial chief was designed to raise the stock’s liquidity, attract more foreign shareholders and take greater advantage of Inter&Co’s status as a holding company.

($1 = 4.9668 reais)

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