Discover shares drop as company sets aside extra $1B in case of souring credit

January 18, 2024 | by


Discover Financial Services, a major credit-card company, experienced a drop in shares after announcing that it had set aside an additional $1 billion to protect against potential losses in credit. The company’s fourth-quarter profits fell short of expectations, and it cited the need for extra funds to cushion against potentially tougher conditions for consumers. This news is the latest challenge for Discover, which has faced leadership changes, questions about internal controls, and increased compliance costs in recent months. Despite these setbacks, Discover remains committed to strengthening its risk-management and compliance programs to ensure long-term stability. Overall, the company reported a decline in net income and an increase in operating expenses, leading to investor concerns and a drop in share prices.

Discover shares drop as company sets aside extra $1B in case of souring credit

Discover’s Provision for Credit Losses Increases

Discover Financial Services, a leading credit-card company, has announced that it is setting aside an additional $1 billion to guard against possible losses from souring credit. This move comes as a precautionary measure to protect the company’s financial stability in the event of a downturn in the economy. The increase in the provision for credit losses is driven by a rise in net charge-offs, which are debts that the company does not expect to recover from its borrowers.

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Net Charge-Offs at the ‘Low End of Expected Range’

Despite the increase in net charge-offs, Discover’s interim CEO, John Owen, stated that they are at the “low end of our expected range.” This indicates that the company’s credit-card holders are generally managing their debts well, but there is still a need to account for potential losses. Discover will closely monitor the situation to ensure that the provision for credit losses remains adequate.

Operating Expenses Rise

Discover has experienced an 18% jump in operating expenses, which has had a negative impact on the company’s profitability. The increase in expenses can be attributed to various factors, including compliance costs and investments in risk-management programs. Discover is committed to ensuring the safety and soundness of its operations, but it acknowledges the need to manage expenses effectively to maintain profitability.

Fourth-Quarter Net Income Drops

Discover’s fourth-quarter net income has significantly decreased compared to the same period last year. The company reported a net income of $388 million, or $1.54 per share, which is a sharp decline from $1.03 billion, or $3.74 per share, in the previous year’s quarter. This drop in net income is primarily due to higher provisions for credit losses and operating expenses. Discover will continue to evaluate its business strategies to improve financial performance in the future.

Revenue Rises

Despite the challenges in net income, Discover has seen a 13% increase in revenue in the fourth quarter. The company reported a total revenue of $4.19 billion, up from $3.72 billion in the same quarter of the previous year. This growth in revenue is a positive sign for Discover and demonstrates its ability to generate income from its core business activities. Analysts had expected Discover to earn $2.50 per share in the fourth quarter, on revenue of $4.1 billion, indicating that the company has exceeded expectations.

Net-Interest Margin Slips but Beats Forecasts

Discover’s net-interest margin, which measures the difference between the interest collected and paid out by the company, has slipped to 10.98% in the fourth quarter. However, this still beats the forecasts by FactSet, which had projected a net-interest margin of 10.52%. Despite the slight decrease, Discover’s net-interest margin remains healthy and reflects the company’s ability to manage its interest-rate risk effectively.

Shares Fall After Hours

Following the announcement of its fourth-quarter results, Discover’s shares fell by 7% in after-hours trading. The negative market reaction can be attributed to the lower-than-expected net income and the increase in provisions for credit losses. Investors are cautious about the potential impact of these factors on Discover’s future profitability. The company’s conference call, scheduled for the next day, will provide further insights into the results and address investor concerns.

Impact of Potential Interest Rate Cuts

Discover, like other financial institutions, is closely monitoring the Federal Reserve’s decision on potential interest rate cuts. Lower interest rates could stimulate consumer borrowing and spending, which would benefit Discover’s business. However, there is a concern that excessive rate cuts could lead to inflation and negatively impact the financial industry’s profitability. Discover will adapt its strategies accordingly to navigate the potential effects of interest rate cuts.

Steps to Strengthen Risk-Management and Compliance Programs

In response to the challenges faced in recent times, Discover has implemented measures to strengthen its risk-management and compliance programs. The company recognizes the importance of maintaining robust risk-management practices to mitigate potential losses. Discover’s interim CEO, John Owen, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to these initiatives and emphasized the need to continuously improve risk management and compliance measures.

In conclusion, Discover’s decision to set aside an extra $1 billion in provisions for credit losses demonstrates its proactive approach to navigating potential risks in the credit market. While the increase in net charge-offs and operating expenses has impacted the company’s net income, Discover’s revenue has continued to show growth. The slight decrease in net-interest margin, although beating forecasts, has led to a negative market reaction. Discover remains vigilant about potential interest rate cuts and is taking steps to strengthen its risk-management and compliance programs. By focusing on these areas, Discover aims to enhance its financial stability and ensure the long-term success of its business.


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