Wells Fargo shares fall 2.5% after fourth-quarter profit gets cut in half from a year ago

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Wells Fargo on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter profits and revenues that fell short of Wall Street’s expectations.

  • Earnings: 93 cents per share versus $1.12 per share forecast by Refinitiv
  • Revenue: $19.86 billion versus $20.14 billion forecast by Refinitiv

Quarterly profit at the San Francisco-based bank was $2.87 billion, compared with $6.06 billion in the year-ago period. Per-share adjusted earnings were 93 cents, well short of the $1.12 per share forecast by Refinitiv.

Shares fell more than 2.5% in premarket trading following the financial results.

The bank also took a financial loss in part related to the retail sales scandal that has plagued Wells Fargo since 2016. The company booked a $1.5 billion charge for legal costs related to litigation stemming from its fake-account problems and others.

The results, which reflect the bank’s performance for the three months ended Dec. 31, mark Wells Fargo’s first quarter under new management. Charles Scharf took over as Wells Fargo’s chief executive in October, replacing Tim Sloan and charged with navigating the bank through a host of regulatory issues that have kept costs elevated.

“Wells Fargo is a wonderful and important franchise that has made some serious mistakes, and my mandate is to make the fundamental changes necessary to regain the full trust and respect of all stakeholders,” Scharf said in a press release. “During my first three months at Wells Fargo my primary focus has been on advancing our required regulatory work with a different sense of urgency and resolve, while beginning to develop a path to improve our financial results.”

The nation’s fourth-largest bank, Wells Fargo remains muddled in restructuring and regulatory reforms since 2016. The government crackdown came under former CEO John Stumpf, who presided over a scandal in which Wells Fargo employees created millions of fake bank accounts to meet sales quotas.

With the bank’s reputation damaged, Sloan took over for Stumpf in 2016 in the hopes of working through the bank’s self-inflicted setbacks. Sloan stepped down abruptly in March and Scharf was named his successor in September.

Investors are eager for any insights from Scharf following his strategic review of the bank’s business practices and how he plans to improve its standing with federal lawmakers.

Shares of Wells Fargo are up just 7.6% over the last 12 months compared to 33% at Bank of America and 36.9% at Citigroup.

Investors and analysts alike also hope Scharf can bring to Wells Fargo the success he oversaw at BNY Mellon, where he previously served as CEO and helped upgrade its technologies.

“Charlie’s first earnings call is tomorrow. I think there is a lot of focus on expenses — they’re clearly running a lot higher there than at peers,” said Barclays analyst Jason Goldberg on Monday. “And I think the question is when can they start to bring down those costs and how far are behind are they — if at all — on their technology spend.”

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