By Glenn Dyer


Another interim result from the ANZ, another billion dollar-plus profit. The ease of doing business in the Australian banking cartel has never been more apparent.

The ANZ is the first of a quartet of major banks to report this month. Westpac is next, then St George and the NAB. All bar the latter will be a procession of solid profit increases, higher dividends and mutterings about interest rates, economic activity and the need for Government to be doing more.

The ANZ earned $1.492 billion in the six months to March – check out the official announcement here . That’s about $82 million a day or nearly $3.4 million an hour.

Shareholders will receive a higher dividend of 51c a share. Not bad, but the bank is still keeping 40% of the profit for itself. Bad debts fell, there’s no sign of any problems on the balance sheet, and the only cloud is the capital changes needed for the new prudential regime in a year or so and the switch to a new accounting standard, but those are problems quite easily fixed.

One thing that will worry the analysts is a 15% rise in expenses from the same quarter of 2004, and a rise in the cost-to-income ratio from 45% to 48%.

That’s likely to get the teeth chattering and the analysts fretting. But that was a deliberate policy of employing more people as the bank opened six new branches and refurbished about 40 to 50 others, which should be seen as good news.

And even banks are being hampered by the labour shortage. The ANZ said two factors stopped more new branches being opened: a shortage of good sites (they closed and sold so many good sites in the past that they’re now other businesses) and a shortage of skilled staff.

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Peter Fray
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