Aussie majors climb global rankings

Three of Australia’s big four banks climbed up the rankings of the top 50 banks of the world, with a combined US$2.64 trillion in assets, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence’s annual list of the world's biggest banks by assets.

Commonwealth Bank rose three spots year-on-year to number 42 with US$703.3 billion in total assets, while ANZ jumped five spots to number 43 (US$700.2 billion) and Westpac gained two spots to number 48 (US$642.3 billion).

National Australia Bank was the only Australian bank to fall, dropping five spots to number 49 (US$595.2 billion). This is likely due to NAB's exit from its UK operations during the period under review.

The report - that valued bank assets for the year to December 2016 - has Chinese banks dominating the ratings, followed by US lenders, and lastly the beleaguered European banks.

China’s big four banks - Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of China - took the top four spots with a combined US$11.91 trillion in assets.

"China's largest banks kept growing in 2016, but the currency turmoil unleashed by Brexit battered European companies in S&P Global Market Intelligence's latest global bank rankings," the ratings agency said.

Impact of Brexit

Brexit was tough on European currencies in 2016, with both the euro and British pound plummeting. The dramatic drop in the pound alone knocked US$289.53 billion off the asset value for London-based Barclays Plc, which fell two spots in the rankings to 17th with US$1.49 trillion in assets.

However, nine Europe lenders could boast total assets of more than US$1 trillion, including four French banks, three based in the UK, one in Spain and one in Germany. That compared to six in China, four in the US and four in Japan.

London-based HSBC Holdings fell to 6th position from 4th as the lender’s total assets dropped to US$2.41 trillion from US$2.67 trillion. Banks with big retail operations dominated the list, meaning investment bankers like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley failed to make the top 20, ranking 32nd and 37th overall.

JPMorgan Chase & Co continued to be the largest US-based bank - despite falling by one spot to 7th in the global rankings - but it would rank second if it followed the same accounting principles as the Chinese banks.

Tokyo-based Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group retained its place as the world's fifth largest bank with US$2.59 trillion in assets.

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