Metrobank loses over P14B in market value amid fraud issue

MANILA, Philippines – Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company (Metrobank), lender owned by business tycoon George Ty, lost P14.63 billion in market value in a day, as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) launched its investigation into the alleged P900-million fraud case involving a senior bank official.

Shares in Metrobank plunged by 5.03% to P86.90 each on Friday, July 21, from P91.50 each on Thursday. This happened the same day the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) presented Maria Victoria Lopez, vice president of the Corporate Service Unit at Metrobank’s Makati head office, as the primary suspect in the case.

"The stock of Metrobank was the biggest underperformer as they were hard hit by the news, as the BSP is to probe the bank on how a single officer circumvented internal controls, which led to the alleged loss of at least P900 million in loans," Marita Limlingan, president of Regina Capital Development Corporation, said in a report.

NBI spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin said on Friday that the Metrobank senior official was arrested while trying to move the stolen money to an unspecified personal account. The money was taken from the credit facility of one of the Metrobank's biggest corporate clients.

Lavin said the 54-year-old Lopez, who was trusted by big corporate clients, had served the bank for over 3 decades and received a monthly salary of at least P250,000. 

This is the latest controversy to hit the Philippine banking industry in the past few months. In 2016, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) was slapped a record P1-billion fine for involvement in $81-million Bangladesh Bank heist.

Last month, numerous clients of Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) reported unauthorized transactions in their accounts for two days. The bank attributed the fiasco to an "internal data processing error."

Weeks after the BPI glitch, Banco de Oro (BDO) became the target of multiple ATM-skimming attacks, while Union Bank probes a suspected P17-million fraud incident involving one of its employees.

Resilient

Despite these mishaps, BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr and the Bankers Association of the Philippines said on Friday they are confident in the banking sector's resilience. (READ: Banking sector backs Metrobank to pull through P900 M fraud case)

"We're looking into it. We have to look into the circumstances and the facts around it. That's really all that the BSP can say for now," Espenilla said.

In a separate disclosure to the local bourse, Metrobank said the bank will continue with its daily operations.

"The bank is reinforcing its commitment to the highest standards of integrity and upholds the protection of its customers as its main priority. No customer has been affected in this incident," Metrobank said in a statement.

Metrobank is the country's second largest bank in terms of total assets with P1.9 trillion as of first quarter of 2017. It booked a net income of P18.09 billion last year as well as profit of P6.21 billion for the start of this year.

The bank's parent firm GT Capital also saw it stock fall by 2.85% to P1,195 each. – Rappler.com