Earnings call: KB Financial Group posts record profits, plans shareholder returns

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Earnings call: KB Financial Group posts record profits, plans shareholder returns
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KB Financial Group (ticker: KB) has reported a notable 11.5% increase in net profit for the full-year 2023, reaching KRW4,631.9 billion. This growth is attributed to strong earnings across all segments, leading to a record gross operating profit of KRW16 trillion, which is up by 17.8% compared to the previous year.

The company's cost-to-income ratio (CIR) hit a record low of approximately 41%, despite a marginal rise in general and administrative expenses. However, the group has increased provisions for credit losses to KRW3,146.4 billion, mainly due to growing credit risk in the real estate market.

They have also set aside KRW754 billion for sectors on their priority watch list. The company's return on equity (ROE) stood at 9.18%, with a BIS ratio of 16.71%. They announced a dividend of KRW3068 per share and a share buyback and cancellation of KRW320 billion. The Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio improved to 13.58%.

KB Financial Group emphasized its commitment to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives and social contribution programs, including KRW7.14 trillion in social finance and KRW300 billion in local community investments.

Key Takeaways

  • Net profit rose by 11.5% to KRW4,631.9 billion in 2023.
  • Gross operating profit reached a record high of KRW16 trillion, up 17.8% year-over-year.
  • Record low CIR of approximately 41% achieved.
  • Provisions for credit losses significantly increased due to real estate market risks.
  • ROE for 2023 was 9.18%, and the BIS ratio was 16.71%.
  • Announced a dividend of KRW3068 per share and a share buyback and cancellation worth KRW320 billion.
  • CET1 ratio improved to 13.58%.
  • Strong focus on ESG and social contribution, with significant financial support pledged.

Company Outlook

  • KB Financial Group plans to enhance shareholder returns and implement a value program.
  • The group intends to discuss quarterly dividends with the Board of Directors.
  • A focus on corporate loan growth aligned with nominal GDP growth levels is highlighted.

Bearish Highlights

  • Provisions for credit losses increased significantly due to an expanding credit risk in the real estate market.
  • The CET1 ratio was negatively impacted by an 80 basis points drop due to increased risk-weighted assets (RWA).

Bullish Highlights

  • The group achieved record high earnings and a low cost-to-income ratio.
  • Net interest margin is expected to remain high in 2023 and 2024.
  • The group has a high share of low-cost deposits and plans for flexible management of its funding portfolio.

Misses

  • Despite overall growth, there was an increase in provisions for credit losses, indicating potential future risks.

Q&A Highlights

  • Addressed questions on credit costs, real estate exposure, CET1 ratio, shareholder return, and K-ICS ratio.
  • Confirmed conservative approach to provisioning and commitment to shareholder return policies.
  • Discussed management of US real estate exposure, emphasizing conservative provisions and low default rates.
  • Explained that the K-ICS ratio increase for insurance is due to interest rate changes.

KB Financial Group's earnings call revealed a robust financial performance for 2023, with record profits and a strong commitment to both shareholder returns and social responsibility initiatives. The group's strategic focus on maintaining a high net interest margin and managing credit risks in the real estate market will continue to be central to its business approach in the upcoming year.

InvestingPro Insights

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InvestingPro Tips reveal that KB Financial Group has seen a notable significant return over the last week, with a 1 Week Price Total Return of 11.85%. This surge in performance may reflect investor confidence following the company's strong earnings report. Additionally, KB Financial Group is recognized as a *prominent player in the Banks industry**, which may provide a level of stability and predictability to its financial outlook.

In terms of InvestingPro Data metrics:

- The company's **P/E Ratio* stands at a competitive 4.47, which suggests that the stock could be undervalued compared to its earnings.

- KB Financial Group has maintained a Dividend Yield of 2.58%, signaling a consistent return to shareholders through dividends.

- The company has demonstrated a Revenue Growth over the last twelve months as of Q3 2023 of 12.88%, indicating a strong top-line performance.

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Full transcript - KB Financial Group Inc (KB) Q4 2024:

Peter Kweon: Greetings. I am Peter Kweon, the head of IR at KBFG. We will now begin the 2023 full year business results presentation. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to everyone for participating today. We have here with us, our group CFO and SEVP, Jae Kwan Kim, as well as other members from our group management. We will first hear the 2023 major financial highlights from CFO and SEVP, Jae Kwan Kim, and then engage in a joint Q&A session. I would like to invite our CFO and SEVP to deliver our 2023 earnings results.

Jae Kwan Kim: Good afternoon. I am Jae Kwan Kim, the CFO of KB Financial Group. Thank you for taking part in our 2023 earnings presentation. Before going into the details of the business results. Let me briefly walk you through the key financial highlights for the year of 2023 of KB Financial Group. KB Financial Group's net profit attributable to controlling interest for 2023 posted KRW4,631.9 billion, it is up 11.5% Y-o-Y, driven by non-interest income led solid earnings improvements and stable cost control despite macro headwinds thus demonstrating the healthy fundamentals and ability for profit growth. Balanced and strong earnings fundamentals was achieved across all of the top line segments of the group, which resulted in record high gross operating profit for 2023, posting KRW16 Trillion, up 17.8% Y-o-Y. As a result of efforts to enhance cost efficiency within the group, G&A expenses increased only 0.1% Y-o-Y and the group CIR in 2023 was at record low levels coming in at 41% approximately. However, provisions for credit losses posted at KRW3,146.4 billion last year up significantly Y-o-Y. Due to continuing high interest rates, both at home and abroad, credit risk, especially in the real estate market has expanded substantially. After Taeyoung E&C filed for a debt-restructuring program in December, concerns are running high of deteriorating asset quality in the real estate PF market. To be pre-emptively prepared during the first half of last year through changes in our expected loss modelling, we have set aside KRW490 billion in provisions. In addition, in the fourth quarter, reflecting a conservative outlook for the future, we have set aside an additional KRW51 billion, approximately and pre-emptively set aside approximately KRW754 billion of additional provisions for priority watch list sectors, including real estate PF and overseas commercial real estate to prepare for any future risk. We expect this to underpin our sustained and strong growth going forward. In terms of returning a profit to society, we have recognized KRW332 billion out of the total of KRW372 billion for social contribution program in Q4. Although last year's, net income did not quite meet the market expectations because of this, excluding such factors, the group's ordinary net income is approximately more than KRW5.5 trillion, which is the highest level of fundamentals found in the industry. Meanwhile, the credit cost ratio of the group in 2023 posted 67 bps, but excluding one off factors, on a recurring basis, it stands at approximately 40 bps thus being maintained at a stable level. Also, as of the end of 2023, the group's NPL coverage ratio posted 174.5%. In this quarter, the asset quality of priority watch list sectors such as the real estate PF and overseas commercial real estate has been more conservatively rated resulting in a slight fall in the NPL coverage ratio Q-o-Q, despite this however the group still demonstrates the industry's highest level of loss absorbing capacity. Meanwhile, KB Financial Gross BOD today has decided that the per share dividend for 2023 will be KRW3068, up 4% from KRW2950 of the previous year, and also resolved on the share buyback and cancellation of KRW320 billion. The share buyback and cancellation is in addition to the KRW300 billion in share buyback and cancellation that we undertook in July of last year. Once again, showing the firm commitment of the BOB and the senior management toward enhancing shareholder return and value. Finally, let me briefly touch upon the progress made in 2023 regarding the group's mid to long term capital management plan that was announced in February of last year. First, the total assets based on the 2023 year end consolidated financial statement posted KRW716 trillion, up 3.9% YTD. And led by the healthy loan growth of the bank assets that have expanded appropriately within the nominal GDP level. Secondly, as was mentioned already, following the previous year in 2023 as well, dividends has been gradually increasing while share buyback as stock cancellation has been proactively undertaken. So despite a number of uncertainties, we are endlessly striving to achieve shareholder returns in keeping with the expectations of the market. Going forward, the company will uphold its firm commitment to faithfully carry out the group's long term capital management plan and we'll do our utmost to implement a proactive shareholder return policy. Let me now explain our business results in greater detail. In 2023, the group's net interest profit posted KRW12,141,7 billion, up 5.4% over last year. This is the result of improving net interest margins of 12 bps reflecting the effects of loan asset repricing on the back of rising interest rates last year, while Korean won loans of the bank increased 4% YTD securing a stable profit base. Next, in 2023, the group's net fee income and commission posted KRW3,673,5 billion, up 4.5% Y-o-Y, increasing by KRW159 billion approximately. Such growth of the net fee income owes itself mainly to the solid growth of the business fees coming from the retail customer base of the credit card, securities and capital business despite the challenging market environment with the wealth management and real estate PF contracting. Next, let me move on to the other operating profit. In 2023, the other operating profit posted KRW413.9 billion, showing significant improvements over the previous year's large losses, up by KRW1,663.5 billion. Against the backdrop of improving market conditions, including interest rates and stock indexes, efforts have been made to engage in timely responses to the market in addition to diversifying the funding asset portfolio leading to meaningful enhancements in the performance of marketable securities and derivatives. Indication of insurance related income, despite increase in costs owing to actuarial assumption changes of the financial authorities last year, related to IFRS 17 the second half of the year, growth of 8.5% was posted over the previous year, maintaining a solid earnings momentum. However, the other operating profit in Q4 declined significantly Qo-Q posting losses of KRW595.7 billion. This is due to seasonal factors driving an increase in loss ratio, which led to a fall in insurance income added to which KRW333 billion of social contribution program expense was reflected as other operating expense. Next is on G&A expenses. In 2023, the G&A expense posted KRW6,647.4 billion. As has been previously referred to, this is a mirror 0.1% increase over the previous year, and is the result of personnel restructuring, strict cost control, and other measures taken across the group to enhance cost efficiencies. Finally, the group's credit loss are provisions. In Q4, their credit loss provisions posted KRW1,378.2 billion, a significant increase Q-o-Q. This is due mostly to the large scale pre-emptive provisioning, against the priority watch list sectors at the group level, reflecting a conservative FLC and excluding such factors, the credit loss provisions at the recurring level is approximately KRW573 billion. On the next page, I will explain the key financial indices. First the groups profitability, KBFGs 2023 ROE posted 9.18% and the recurring level of ROE excluding one off items stands at 11.53% level, highlighting continuous and solid earnings fundamentals. Next, I will cover bank's loans in won growth. Banks loans in won, as of end 2023, posted KRW342 trillion a 4% YTD and 1.5% increase Q-o-Q. Corporate loans posted KRW175 trillion a 7.7% increase YTD around KRW12.5 trillion increase and led last year's bank loan growth. This was a result of increase in loan demand derived by deterioration in corporate bond market conditions leading to a KRW8.9 trillion YTD increase of large corporate loans and SME loans continuing to grow centring on high quality SME and SOHO loans. On the other hand, household loans after posting minus growth in Q1 has been continuing a gradual stable recovery trend based on real demand and posted KRW167 trillion, a 0.3% growth YTD. In this in this year as well, we will take into consideration multifaceted factors, such as economic circumstances and household death situation, and focus on qualitative growth centring on asset quality and profitability and maintain loan growth within an appropriate level. Next is NIM. Group And Bank 2023 NIM posted 2.08% and 1.83%, respectively, a 12 BP (NYSE: BP ) and 10 BP increase Y-o-Y. This improvement in NIM was a result of our utmost efforts in the management, including reducing funding costs by securing the industry's highest level of low cost core deposits through our superior sales capability and channel competitiveness and by significantly improving profitability of our financial investments compared to the previous year through profitability centered portfolio management. However, in the case of Q4 Group and Bank NIM with the gradual diminishing of the loan asset repricing effect, reflecting the interest rate hike in the second half of the year, both went down 1 bp Q-o-Q, respectively. Let's go to the next page. Regarding the group's CIR and CCR, I will skip this part since I covered this earlier, and I will elaborate on the group's capital ratio which is found in the upper right-hand side. 2023 end estimated group BIS ratio posted 16.71% and CET1 ratio posted 13.58%, respectively, despite the increased RWA due to growth centring on corporate loans as well as year-end dividend effect, group's BIS ratio increased 55 bps Y-o-Y, still maintaining the highest level of robust capital buffer in financial industry still fully prepared for macro uncertainties. I will explain in more detail regarding the CET 1 ratio from the next page. This page is for us to more clearly explain about the indicators that shareholders and investors are interested in, including share related indicators and CET1 ratio. First, if you look at the graph on the left, you can see that the group's CET1 ratio as of 2023 year end posted 13.58%, a 34 BP improvement YTD. Looking at the factors behind major movements, additional factors, including group's solid net profit growth and OCI movement, each contributed by around 144 bps and 24 bps, respectively, to push up the CET1 ratio. RWA, which increased by KRW19.1 trillion YTD and the dividends share buyback and cancellation, which recognized in 2023, each contributed to 80 bps and 54 bps drop in CET1 ratio, respectively. Next, 2023 EPS posted approximately 11,581 and on the back of sound income growth and share buyback and cancellation effect went up approximately 12.1% Y-o-Y. In addition, the BPS posted approximately 148,241 and like the EPS thanks to our consistent efforts to enhance shareholder value including active share buyback and cancellation improved by around 9.3% Y-o-Y. From this page, I would like to cover KBFG's EST management for shared growth, fulfilling social responsibilities among our group's core management strategies. In order for us to create a sustainable future in society, which is the ultimate goal that we want to achieve through ESG Management, have been working hard for social contribution, utilizing our core competency in finance and also engaging in social contribution activities in a balanced and accelerated manner. 2023's representative performance results include newly providing around KRW7.14 trillion of social finance, utilizing our core competence in finance, including financial products for the under privilege low interest for refinancing loans and savings program for youth. In the non-financial side, we contributed around KRW300 billion for social contribution and local community investment, including supporting the under privileged and small businesses and activities to improve social infrastructure. In addition, we provided around 13,500 cases of free consulting to small businesses and through the KB Good Job Fair, we connected around 6190 jobs to job seekers and actively engaged in divers, social contribution, activities, and programs. We will not be complacent with these results, but also focus our efforts for other social contribution activities, these, as well. First related to the Bank wide Public Social Contribution Program, which was announced late last year, we plan to support KRW372.1 billion, the largest among all participating banks, and we plan to expediate the completion of interest cashback implementation within Q1 this year and plan to consecutively support small business owners and the underprivileged through our voluntary program. Apart from this, we plan to increase different support programs so that the self-employed can overcome their economic difficulties, expand programs to reduce rate for the underprivileged and sole proprietors and expand its guaranteed loans through guarantee institution special contributions and in particular, order to resolve the low fertility program, we contributed a total of KRW75 billion to expanding elementary school after school care school child care programs until 2022 and from 2023, we have been additionally supporting a total of KRW50 billion related to increasing after school and other child care related institutions. KBFG pledges that we will engage in a higher level of ESG management, which benefits its role as a leading financial group that will grow with the people through consistently implementing diverse social contribution finance programs that can provide realistic benefits that can be felt firsthand. Please refer to them. Next page is just to cover details regarding the business results I have covered so far. With this, I will conclude 2023 KBFG Business Results Presentation. Thank you for listening.

Operator:

Peter Kweon: Thank you very much for the presentation. We would now like to begin the Q&A. For those of you viewing the presentation through the Internet please contact us via contact number that is on the last page of the PPT deck. So now I'll wait for the questions. First question is from Park [indiscernible] from [indiscernible] Securities.

Unknown Analyst: So good afternoon. My name is Park [indiscernible] from [indiscernible] Securities. So with regards to a credit cost, I have some questions. So rather than expectations in Q4 the credit cost was quite high, with regards to real estate PF, I do understand that there has been pre-emptive provisions. Can you break down the provisions between the banking subsidiaries and the non-bank subsidiaries, and the total exposure and the bridge load, and the delinquency, what is the size of the delinquency at the year end. And also, loan loss provisions this year as well. Despite the pre-emptive provisioning, with regards to the real estate PF, do you have any plans of additional provisioning this year as well? So these are my questions.

Jae Kwan Kim: So in the fourth quarter, we have had set aside large provisions. So bank subsidiaries and non-bank subsidiaries as well. In the case of the bank subsidiary, the PF is about, 95% of senior debt, but if you look at the loan provisioning between bank and the non-bank subsidiaries, the bank accounts for 60% and the bank and the non-bank subsidiaries. It's 50 to 50. So the bank's portion is quite large, but, the non-bank is subsidiaries there has been large additional provisions set aside for those segments as well and KRW13.5 trillion is a total exposure around so and, about from that, half of that is accounted for by the bank, and the rest is securities and insurance companies, are responsible for those other provisions and with regards to delinquency ratio, well, in the case of the real estate PF, the NPL ratio is about 1% is 0.8%, less than 1% 0.8%. Despite this low level, we have set aside very conservative provisioning and the asset quality rating has been done in a very conservative manner and also the PF asset evaluation has also been done very conservatively that is the reason why we have set aside large provisions. And the question as to whether we would have additional provisioning this year, so conservative provisioning from the point of view of the present, if we assume the worst case, well, collaterals, and the worst case, how far the price of the collateral can fall that is the basis of our scenario. So from the present point of view, we do believe that sufficient provisioning has already been set aside and so we don't foresee any additional provisioning for this year, as of the present. So starting from this year, unless there is any exceptional events in the real estate market, we do believe that we will be able to manage developments going forward.

Operator: Thank you very much for the answer. We will take the next question. We are waiting for the question to come in Please hold. We don't have any questions in the queue now, so we will wait. We will take the next question from HSBC. We have Jun Jeong on the line.

Jun Jeong: Thank you very much for very superior earnings despite the difficult circumstances, and thank you very much for your shareholder return results. So I would like to ask you about the standard that you have in mind because the KRW320 billion of share cancellation and you mentioned the PCA and the payout ratio. So I think that it is over 38% or so. So Is that all total TSR, or can you give us a little more colour, on whether we should see that these will change so total shareholder return ratio that you have in mind, can you give us guidance for that?

Jae Kwan Kim: Thank you very much. I am CFO of the group Jae Kwan Kim as you had elaborated. I think there will be some changes according to which calendar you are using on a calendar basis for the share buyback and cancellation for this year, when we retrospectively look back to the previous year, it's 38.6%, as you mentioned, and for share buyback and cancellation this year, we see for 2024, and we had KRW572 billion for last year. So it's 37.5 percent or so.

Operator: We will receive the next question from Jeong Tae Joon from Yuanta Securities.

Jeong Tae Joon: Good afternoon. My name is Jeong Tae Joon. Thank you very much for the opportunity to ask questions. Recent issue with regards to the ELS, so the company, what is your view on this? And what are your future responses that you are formulating cope with this situation. Thank you very much.

Operator: So while we are preparing the and sir, please wait for a few seconds. Thank you.

Jae Kwan Kim: So, this year, the bank is pretty much focused on the ELS responses and also rebuilding the trust of the customers. The FSS audit is still underway and so there hasn't been anything decided in terms of, compensation for the damages.

Operator: We will take the next question from Samsung (KS: 005930 ) Securities, Kim Jae-Woo. You're on the line.

Kim Jae-Woo: Thank you very much for your good earnings results and shareholder return results. So regarding the CET1 ratio, I think it is improving and compared to your peers, I think it is very superior. And to what extent do you think total shareholder return can take place? So if it goes beyond 13%, they say that they will have up to 50% of returns to shareholders that exceeds that. So do you have any special guidance that you can remark upon related to that and we also have the quarterly dividends. And can you give us some guidance on quarterly dividends for this year as well? Thank you.

Jae Kwan Kim: I am Jae Kwan Kim, the CFO of the group, regarding shareholder return, I would like to emphasize three factors. First, we have the highest level of earnings power or generating power in the financial industries. So there was a pre-emptive provisioning for social contribution last year, but excluding that, 2023 recurring net profit stands at KRW3.5 trillion level and total operating profit posted about KRW16 trillion a 17.8% growth, a record high level. Our superior earnings power capacity will become a great source for shareholder return. Secondly, according to the mid-to-long term capital management plan we announced in February, we will faithfully implement our shareholder return policies. Through detailed and sophisticated capital management plans, we will secure the highest level of capital adequacy in the industry and for capital in excess that goes beyond 13% of CET1 ratio, we plan to actively utilize this for shareholder return. If there are no special circumstances related to financial volatility and our company's management goals. So based on such a principle, the recent decision on shareholder return was made in full consideration of the HSI linked to ELS related uncertainties going forward barring any exceptional events. We intend to carry out our existing long term capital management plan faithfully. The KB Financial Group has, over the years, played a leading role in terms of shareholder returns, and we intend to implement an even stronger shareholder return see going forward. Finally, I understand that there's a lot of market interest nowadays in enhancing the enterprise value of low PBR stocks. But when a decide, detailed plan for a value of program comes out, we will be sure to put forward proactive responses to ensure that enterprise value is enhanced. Regarding the quarterly dividends that you asked about, we plan to do so this year as well, and we will discuss in detail with the BOD for details regarding our quarterly dividends this year.

Operator: Next question is from Kim Do-ha from Hanwha Securities.

Kim Do-ha: Thank you very much for the opportunity. It is quite overlapping with a previous question, in the earlier part of the year. So, the treasury stocks, how are you intending to calculate the shareholder buyback that isn't linked to the previous year's performance or this year's performance . So I think, based on your answer, we can be able to anticipate, what the guidance will be, going forward for this year's dividend. So thank you very much for your answer in Advance.

Jae Kwan Kim: Well, this question, I think, this is the same question as the first question. So let me say that the answer is quite the same as the first question.

Operator: We will take the next question from SK Securities.

SK Securities: Thank you very much for the opportunity. It might be a very narrow question, but you can see the K-ICS ratio Well, it seems that it has gone up, for the insurance. So can you elaborate more about the re the reasons behind that?

Jae Kwan Kim: Well, the K-ICS ratio changes each quarter and currently, well, we have been, actually been affected by interest rates. So for the changes in the quarter, it is because of the interest rates. So that will be a large reason behind that.

Operator: So next question, Mr. Cho Jihyun from JP Morgan.

Cho Jihyun: Thank you very much for this opportunity. I have two questions. In 2024 NIM and also with regards to your credit cost growth, if you have any guidance, can you share that also with your exemptions? And secondly, the US, real estate exposure, I think a lot of investors have questions about that. With regards to overseas real estate, at the group level and, if you can provide a breakdown by subsidiaries, can you provide with a rough assumption of the exposure? And going forward, what kind of what level of risk do you foresee? And with regards to K-ICS, I do believe that you have sufficient provision regarding K-ICS, but with regards to overseas real estate, do you have provisions for overseas real estate also included in that amount?

Operator: So while we are preparing the answer, please wait for a few seconds. Thank you.

Jae Kwan Kim: Sir, the US commercial real estate, let me get that question first. We have about a KRW1 trillion of exposure, and a large part of that is held by the bank and the amount held by the other subsidiaries is not that large. In the case of the bank, it has a large exposure, but it had a conservatively invested. So, senior debt takes up a large portion. In the case of United States and Europe, we have commercial real estates there and office and multifamily and, quasi residential real estate is, the bulk of our holding and 0.2 percent, default rate in payout ratio. And you talked about provisioning, but in Q4, I said that we have conservative provisioned against the real estate and for the overseas commercial real estate as well. We have even more conservative provisioning for such, real estate and for funds as well it is a PL asset and, so we have taken impaired losses in end of 2023. So the overall portfolio is mostly senior debt, and So there is a significant impact, and we have sufficient provisioning given these factors. So the overseas of commercial real estate for KB Financial Group, we don't see much impact going forward because of these reasons. Also the other questions regarding NIM? In the case of, NIM, we have very high share of low-cost deposit and in a high interest rate regime, this leads us to meet in a high NIM level, in 2023, and in 2024 earlier as well. We have maturing a high interest rate time deposit, this can serve as a factor. And also, KB, the share of, the fixed interest rate, deposit is quite high and also starting from last year, the asset duration is being expanded. So even if the interest rate goes down in the second half, we will be able to engage in flexible, funding portfolio management and so in 2024, we will amend the NIM so that it will be slightly lower than last year. And with regard to loan growth, our growth is focused mostly on corporate loan, and, it's going to be maintained at the nominal GDP growth level.

Operator: It seems that there are no other questions in the queue. Now, so we shall hold. It seems that we have received about 7 questions in a short amount of time and cover different areas. If you did not get a chance to ask questions, please contact our IR team, and we would be more than happy to answer them and it seems that there are no questions in the queue now. Since we do not seem to be having any more questions for now in the queue, we shall wait a little longer. And if there are no other questions coming in, we will conclude our earnings presentation. Well, we will conclude our Q and A session, and we will conclude our business presentation for full year 2023. Thank you very much.

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