ATB has ap­proved $240M in de­ferred pay­ments

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - AMANDA STEPHEN­SON astephen­son@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/aman­damsteph

ATB Fi­nan­cial has ap­proved close to a quar­ter-bil­lion dol­lars’ worth of mort­gage, loan and credit card de­fer­rals for Al­ber­tans since the start of the COVID-19 pan­demic.

In an in­ter­view Fri­day, ATB CEO Cur­tis Stange said the $240 mil­lion in de­ferred pay­ments the Crown cor­po­ra­tion has ap­proved for cus­tomers since March 18 il­lus­trates just how dev­as­tat­ing the pan­demic has been for Al­ber­tans’ liveli­hoods.

“Be­hind $240 mil­lion of pay­ments are Al­ber­tans. They’re Al­ber­tans that have bor­rowed money to buy homes, to buy boats, to live their lives, to usher kids off to school,” Stange said. “Be­hind each pay­ment de­fer­ral is a per­son.”

The home­grown fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion, which re­leased its 2020 fi­nan­cial re­sults Thurs­day, grew its rev­enues 2.6 per cent over the pre­vi­ous year to a record $1.7 bil­lion. How­ever, that growth was over­shad­owed by a 14 per cent in­crease in loan loss pro­vi­sions (to $385 mil­lion) due to March’s dou­ble eco­nomic whammy of COVID -19 and the oil price crash.

Stange said ATB is well po­si­tioned to mit­i­gate fu­ture loan losses. The fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion saw its in­come be­fore pro­vi­sions hit a record of $519 mil­lion.

How­ever, Stange ac­knowl­edged it will be a long road to re­cov­ery for Al­berta, es­pe­cially given the trou­bled state of the en­ergy sec­tor. He said ATB ex­pects it will take three years to get back to PRE-COVID lev­els of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

“And there’s a sce­nario we are look­ing at that could take up to five years to get back to PRE-COVID GDP,” he said.

Stange, who said ATB pro­vides fi­nan­cial ser­vices to ap­prox­i­mately 25 per cent of the prov­ince’s small busi­nesses, de­clined to pro­vide a num­ber when asked what pro­por­tion of Al­berta’s re­tail out­lets, restau­rants and other mom-and-pop op­er­a­tions are vul­ner­a­ble to fail­ure due to COVID -19.

“We know there were a num­ber of small busi­nesses that were strug­gling prior to the pan­demic,” he said. “And those chal­lenges have been ex­ac­er­bated.”

But he said ATB is com­mit­ted to work­ing closely with that sec­tor to man­age the cri­sis, just as it is com­mit­ted to work­ing with the en­ergy sec­tor. In its an­nual re­port, ATB said it an­tic­i­pates en­ergy sec­tor cap­i­tal spend­ing and in­vest­ment to re­main min­i­mal well into 2021, if not longer, and ac­knowl­edged there is con­cern that nu­mer­ous en­ergy sec­tor busi­nesses will not sur­vive the down­turn even if ad­di­tional fed­eral govern­ment sup­port is forth­com­ing.

Stange said there have been re­cent high-pro­file ex­am­ples of cap­i­tal flight from Al­berta’s en­ergy sec­tor, but he said ATB is proud of the en­ergy sec­tor’s en­vi­ron­men­tal record and rec­og­nizes its con­tri­bu­tions to the prov­ince’s GDP. “We just want to sig­nal broadly to Al­ber­tans and our en­ergy cus­tomers that we are here to sup­port you.”

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