Natixis’ Equity Derivatives Losses Soar to 250 Million Euros

(Bloomberg) -- Natixis SA, the French investment bank that embraced complex trades as a key money maker, has lost about 250 million euros ($274 million) so far this year on equity derivatives.

About 150 million euros of the losses have occurred since April, according to people familiar with the matter. The results are partly driven by corporations slashing their dividends because of the coronavirus, the people said, asking not to be named as the details aren’t public.

While the results may improve as the year goes on, the trades have dealt another blow to Chief Executive Officer Francois Riahi. For now, the hit is similar to the one Natixis took on Korean equity derivatives in 2018, a debacle that attracted scrutiny from the European Central Bank.

Natixis’ Equity Derivatives Losses Soar to 250 Million Euros

Equity derivatives are contracts that derive their value from common shares. Natixis, like most investment banks, doesn’t publicly disclose how much it makes from them. They’re housed in the bank’s equities-trading division, which could offset losses with stronger performances in other trades.

“These figures do not reflect the situation of our equity business as presented in our financial communication statements neither in Q1 nor year to date,” Benoit Gausseron, a spokesman for Natixis in Paris, said in an emailed statement. “As a reminder, in Q1 2020, our equity business featured minus 32-million-euro revenues under the effect of dividend cancellations, some of them occurring also in April, as one can see from public market information.”

Natixis shares fell 5.5% to 1.88 euros at 12:32 p.m, the second-worst performer on the Bloomberg Europe 500 Banks and Financial Services Index. The stock has lost more than half its value this year.

The bank’s overall equities division reported a 126% plunge in revenues for the first quarter. The result included a 130 million-euro loss linked to companies cutting their dividends, according to a presentation.

Natixis and its crosstown rivals BNP Paribas SA and Societe Generale SA fared far worse than their U.S. counterparts in the tumultuous first quarter, thanks to their use of equity derivatives known as structured products, multilayered securities that get increasingly difficult to manage as markets fluctuate.

Natixis’ Equity Derivatives Losses Soar to 250 Million Euros

Traders at the French banks typically use derivatives linked to dividends as part of their efforts to hedge against possible losses. Yet this strategy was roiled when corporations began canceling payments to shareholders as a result of the coronavirus, Bloomberg has reported.

Riahi, a Natixis veteran, has spent much of the past 18 months repairing the damage caused by the Korean trades. Since August, the bank has hired a new head of equities, a new Asia-Pacific team, a new chief risk officer and replaced its global markets head.

The CEO was asked on an earnings call on May 7 if he should now consider ditching the equity-derivatives business altogether.

“We cannot say that in the medium run we can be happy of what has been generated by equity derivatives,” Riahi responded. “But we are not going to make decisions based on just this.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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