The World's Largest Banks

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.

China's "Big Four" — Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., China Construction Bank Corp., Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. and Bank of China Ltd. — all maintained their rank as the four largest banks in the world with a combined $11.910 trillion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2016. Tokyo-based Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. retained its place as the world's fifth largest bank at $2.590 trillion in assets.

Brexit was not kind to European currencies in 2016 — the euro bought $1.055 at the end of 2016, compared to $1.086 a year earlier, while the British pound fell to $1.235 from $1.474 over the same period. The drop in the pound alone knocked $289.53 billion off of the asset value for London-based Barclays Plc, which fell two spots in the ranking to No. 17 with $1.496 trillion in assets; the bank's assets would have been $1.785 trillion if converted to U.S. dollars using the year-end 2015 exchange rate.

Regional Rankings

The stock market may have favored banks in the fourth quarter following the election, but actual asset growth remained muted for most of the country's largest banks in the final quarter of 2016. All five of the largest banks by assets as well as 23 others among the 50 largest banks posted a drop in assets during the fourth quarter. Assets at the largest U.S. bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co., fell by more than $30 billion in the fourth quarter to $2.491 trillion as of Dec. 31.

Bank of New York Mellon Corp. fell three spots to No. 9 after its total assets fell to $333.47 billion at year-end 2016 from $374.11 billion at Sept. 30. Total deposit liabilities dropped almost $40 billion to $221.49 billion as of Dec. 31.
Latin America & the Caribbean
Itaú Unibanco Holding SA topped fellow Brazil-based Banco do Brasil SA to become Latin America's largest bank by assets at year-end 2016, with total assets of $438.00 billion compared to Banco do Brasil's $430.54 billion.
The shift came as Itaú benefited from the merger of its Banco Itaú Chile unit with CorpBanca at the start of the second quarter of 2016, which helped bolster its total loan portfolio. Additionally, both banks' rankings were buoyed by a strong recovery in the Brazilian real, with the Brazilian real gaining 21.7% against the U.S. dollar in 2016.
For the fifth consecutive year, HSBC Holdings Plc is Europe's largest bank by assets, according to the latest ranking by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The London-based bank reported €2.251 trillion in pro forma assets at the end of 2016, €174 billion more than Paris–based BNP Paribas SA, Europe's second-largest.

Yet despite its heft, the British banking giant had a tepid 2016. Its profitability fell sharply and its total assets fell in U.S. dollar terms, the company's reporting currency.

Middle East & Africa
The Qatari bank grew to $204.05 billion in assets as of March 31, up almost $53 billion from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the merger of National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC and First Gulf Bank PJSC launched the combined company into the No. 2 spot in the region, up from No. 7 and No. 15, respectively, in the 2016 ranking. The new company is to be called First Abu Dhabi Bank, pending regulatory approval.

Asia Pacific
Despite a regional slowdown, Asia's largest banks continued growing in 2016. For the third consecutive year, China's Big Four — Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., China Construction Bank Corp., Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. and Bank of China Ltd. — were the largest banks in Asia-Pacific by assets, according to the latest ranking by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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