Banking giant BNP Paribas (OTC: BNPQY) has been most visible on the international stage for its longstanding sponsorship of the French Open tennis championship. But after Wednesday's impressive results, BNP will gain notoriety this time for snubbing its rivals and skirting the global financial crisis with minor damage.
BNP took the rancid duck liver that is the U.S. subprime market and whipped it into pate de foie gras ... voila! Despite crisis-related losses of $872 million for the quarter, the bank managed to post a $1.48 billion profit, and for the full year actually beat its 2006 performance by 7% to $11.58 billion in net income.
Looking forward, BNP claims to have only $444 million in remaining exposure to subprime losses, most from its U.S.-focused BancWest subsidiary. However, with $1.9 billion in remaining exposure to monoline losses, it appears that the monoline concern is more substantial for BNP than the subprime crisis which started it all. (Although they can all be linked.)
By contrast, Barclays (NYSE: BCS ) impressed the markets Monday with its results out of London, but its balance sheet still clings to $19 billion in subprime and collateralized debt obligation exposures. The Swiss bank UBS (NYSE: UBS ) frightened European markets last week when it posted a $11.28 billion fourth-quarter loss, but those losses could worsen, as UBS indicates $27.5 billion in remaining exposures to subprime, and $3 billion in monoline risk. The losses and remaining exposures for U.S. banks such as Citigroup (NYSE: C ) and Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER ) , of course, are scarier still.
The interest in BNP Paribas for investors is not as a potential investment (BNP only trades in the U.S. over-the-counter), but as an important barometer for the depth and longevity of the present crisis that is sweeping the world's banks. If more foreign banks begin to report revenue growth and minimal exposure to the subprime mess, it might calm the market and help contain the damage.
We Fools are anxious to say "au revoir" to the financial uncertainty that's churning the markets, and although it might linger in the air like a ripe Roquefort, Fools must monitor results from the world's financial institutions to gauge their progress in absorbing the losses and moving on.