As a tantalizing pre-cursor to 1st half earnings, ICBC HK 1398, stated that it issued over 117 million credit cards with 1st half consumption of 1.4 trillion yuan, ($211.25 Billion). However you look at it, that’s a lot of plastic. However, in relative terms, it’s not quite as stunning. Particularly for consumption dollars, the increase is substantial, compared to the 1st half 2015 filing:
Why it matters. In terms of market cap, ICBC is the second largest bank in the world after Wells Fargo Bank. In China, it’s the largest. Its credit card issuance and consumption therefore give a view of credit card growth in China, which has historically had a higher dependence on debit cards. It’s also a window to consumer credit use in China and the growth of an important revenue source for ICBC.
For ICBC, and the majority of banks in China, debit card issuance has far exceeded credit card issuance. Based on the last 2 annual reports, ICBC’s credit cards as a % of total cards has inched up , although growing more than debit card issuance.
Based on the annual report, confirmed by the 1st half 2016 results, Chinese consumers who do have credit cards are getting more comfortable buying on credit. This should be good news for Chinese banks, since they’ve been squeezed by lower net interest income after multiple interest reductions by the Central bank.
Add to that a market slowdown and increasing, NPL’S, and banks are grasping for sources of income other than net interest. ICBC , despite its size and international holdings, needs that extra income. The last quarter showed minimal growth in net profit, with commission and fee income representing a consecutively larger part of revenue.
Source: HK filing
While quarterly filings don’t break out bank charges, the last annual showed them to be about 5.6% of gross revenue.
Comparing this to the increase in annual card issuance, the 12.5% increase in annual bank cards issued brought about a 7.3% increase in total revenue. While the latest statement mentioned only credit cards, the increase bodes well for an increase in a significant portion of income. With a trailing p/e of 5 and below, it needs all the help it can get. Judging by historical filing, we should see if this assumption holds around 8/27 of this month.