• Shareholders reappoint Josep Oliu as Non-Executive Chairman and ratify the appointments of Aurora Catá Sala, María José García Beato and David Vegara Figueras as Directors.
• The General Meeting approves the management and results for 2022 and the distribution of a supplementary dividend of 2 euro cents per share.
• Shareholders back the share buyback programme for a maximum of 204 million euros.
• They also approve the appointments of Laura González Molero and Pedro Viñolas Sierra.
The Banco Sabadell General Shareholders’ Meeting, held in Alicante and attended by representatives of 61.9% of the share capital, approved the management actions, the new remuneration policy and the annual financial statements of the Institution for its 141st year.
During the meeting, the non-financial disclosures report was approved, as were the 2022 accounts, as well as the proposal concerning the allocation of profits and the distribution of a supplementary dividend of 0.02 euros per share for the year ended 31 December 2022. This is additional to the interim dividend, also of 2 euro cents per share, that was distributed at the end of last year.
Shareholders also backed the share buyback programme for a maximum of 204 million euros, conditional upon obtaining authorisation from the European Central Bank. Overall, the dividend plus the buyback programme will result in a payout of up to 50%, representing a return on market value of equity of 8.7% as at the end of 2022.
The proposed payout is in keeping with the Banco Sabadell dividend policy, given the positive circumstances due to both the existing capital and the expected generation of capital in the coming financial year.
Shareholders also ratified the re-appointment of Aurora Catá Sala as Independent Director, of María José García Beato as Other External Director, of David Vegara Figueras as Chief Executive Officer and the continuation of Josep Oliu as Non-Executive Chairman.
At the same time, they backed the ratification and appointment of Laura González Molero as Independent Director, replacing José Ramón Martínez Sufrategui, in addition to the appointment of Pedro Viñolas Sierra as Independent Director, replacing Anthony Ball.
Speech by the Chairman
The Chairman of Banco Sabadell, Josep Oliu, began his speech with a message of satisfaction: “The Bank has exceeded the expectations of its three-year plan to regain sustainable profitability drawn up at the end of 2020”. However, he also recognised that it has not been an easy year, due to major economic and geopolitical changes as well as more recent events, which have reshaped the existing turbulent environment.
“This year we have experienced great uncertainty, which continues to the present day” indicated Oliu. He explained that “not only is the war still posing a threat to society, but the adaptation to the new economic interest rate environment has also caused and could continue causing episodes of market instability”.
In any event, he emphasised that “the Spanish banking industry has followed a very positive trend over the year, with solid results, growing solvency and excess liquidity, as a result of the limited growth of lending compared to the credit facilities offered by the European Central Bank.”
In this respect, the Chairman highlighted the positive performance of Banco Sabadell. The Bank has stood out from among its Spanish peers due to the execution of “the second year of its plan to achieve a sustainable rate of return, through a successful combination of a 10.9% growth of net interest income, a 3.5% reduction of recurrent costs and a cost of credit risk that has been brought down to 44 basis points.”
“Strong earnings and the systematic generation of capital in every quarter of the past two years have restored investor confidence in our stock”, said Oliu. The Bank’s share appreciated by 58% in 2022 and was the second-best performer of the IBEX 35.
During the General Meeting, the Chairman also reiterated the Bank’s firm commitment to sustainability, as set out in the ‘Commitment to Sustainability’ report published in March last year, which sets out an environmental and social action framework in which the ESG strategy is embedded in the Institution’s vision of the future.
Along these lines, he mentioned the help and support offered to customers to help them achieve their decarbonisation targets, as well as the appropriate treatment of customers facing barriers to financial inclusion through Sogeviso, a subsidiary that specialises in finding housing solutions for people and families in vulnerable situations and in searching for temporary solutions while their situation returns to normal.
Oliu ended his speech by stating that the next few years will be vital for the Bank’s future consolidation and for its social importance. “I hope to contribute, to the best of my ability, to serving customers and shareholders, as I have been doing until now”, he said. “Even now, at a time of market volatility, our prospects for the year 2023 are very positive”, he acknowledged. To sum up, the Chairman is confident that “Banco Sabadell faces the third year of its strategic plan in a turbulent environment, but with a strong starting point and an unwavering determination to achieve its targets”.
Speech by the Chief Executive Officer
The Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, César González-Bueno, began by stating that the “the Bank is strong, with well-focused management priorities and a well-defined strategic roadmap”. He then went on to highlight the key financial figures and the management actions taken during 2022, before focusing on the financial targets for 2023.
In essence, he underlined the “strong growth of profit and profitability, the improved risk profile, the good business dynamics and acceleration of the transformation, the firm commitment to sustainability, and the strong capital and liquidity position”.
He also mentioned some of the key initiatives launched in 2022 designed to achieve further and more profitable growth. As explained by the Chief Executive Officer, in relation to consumption, the customer proposition of pre-approved digital loans has been improved, resulting in year-on-year growth of new digital loans of 43%. In relation to payment cards, the activation process is now instant and fully digital. In 2022, 38% of new payment cards were activated digitally.
As for accounts, González-Bueno highlighted the launch of the digital account, which customers can open in just 5 minutes through a 100% remote process. “This good progress in our transformation has contributed to the good performance of the key business activity indicators”, he noted.
In Business Banking, “the transformation focuses on strengthening the recognised franchise of Banco Sabadell by developing specific initiatives, such as greater sectoral specialisation for businesses and self-employed workers and the launch of 32 vertical product and service offers.”
During his speech, the Chief Executive Officer also mentioned the strategic deal recently signed with Nexi. “With this agreement, we will improve the value proposition and customer experience still further in a key product for corporates, businesses and self-employed workers, through a larger and more innovative offering”, he assured.
He also emphasised the responsibility that Banco Sabadell has towards households and families. “We follow the Code of Good Practice, covering families at the brink of exclusion and who are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments. In addition to this, the Bank offers personalised solutions to customers who cannot adhere to this Code but who are struggling to repay their loans”.
In relation to people experiencing difficulties when using remote banking, Banco Sabadell has extended its cashier opening times in 237 branches and it has also set up a toll free phone number to offer personalised assistance to the elderly, among other social groups. It has also adopted the roadmap agreed in the sector to prevent the removal of financial services in rural areas and it has signed an agreement with Correos, Spain’s national mail service, to offer in-person banking services in 100% of Spanish municipalities.
To sum up, González-Bueno highlighted that “today the Bank has a stable and balanced funding structure, with more than 60% of deposits covered by the Deposit Guarantee Fund, one of the highest percentages among the major European banks”. Ultimately, “the solvency and liquidity of Spanish banks in general, and of Banco Sabadell in particular, is beyond any doubt”.
“We look to the future with confidence. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Bank is strong, it has well-focused management priorities and it is following a well-defined strategic roadmap. The results and performance of the financial year 2022 are a testament to this”, he concluded.