ASIA UNITED Bank Corp.’s (AUB) net profit increased in the first quarter of 2022, backed mainly by the decline in loan loss provisions and improving operating income.

The bank’s net profit climbed by 78.8% to P1.3 billion in the January to March period from P736 million a year earlier, it said in a filing with the local bourse on Thursday.

This translated to a return on assets of 1.7%, while return on equity stood at 14.3%.

“Our financial performance was aided by the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, the continuous rollout of vaccines and booster shots by the government, and the overall improvement in the business climate,” AUB President Manuel A. Gomez said in a statement.

AUB booked a net profit amounting to P4.1 billion in 2021, beyond its P4-billion target for the year and 34% higher than the P3 billion it posted in 2020. However, this was still below the P4.4 billion it earned in 2019 before the pandemic.

Its end-2021 net income reflects a return on assets of 1.3% from 1.04% in 2020, while return on equity improved to 11.1% from 8.9%.

For the first quarter of 2022, the total operating income of AUB and its three subsidiaries rose by 15.7% to P3.3 billion from P2.9 billion a year ago.

Meanwhile, total operating expenses dropped by 12.2% to P1.7 billion.

“This also reflected lower loan loss provision after setting aside a significant buffer in 2020 to cover the credit risk brought about by the pandemic,” AUB said.

The bank’s assets were flat at P313.9 billion as of end-March. Loans and receivables inched up by 2.6% to P167.4 billion from a year earlier.

On the other hand, total deposits with the bank slipped by 0.8% to P258.9 billion in the first quarter from P261 billion a year prior as consumers remained cautious and shifted to higher-yielding investments.

Mr. Gomez said they are optimistic that the bank’s asset quality will improve as the economy starts to recover. This will also boost deposits and their lending business, he added.

“However, we continue to be watchful of developments such as the geopolitical tension in Europe, the rising inflation in the US, as well as the outcome of our national elections, which could affect the overall outlook on the Philippines,” Mr. Gomez said.

AUB’s shares closed at P44.10 apiece on Thursday, gaining 30 centavos or 0.68% from the previous day’s finish. — Luz Wendy T. Noble