Overview of 2016
We produced another resilient performance, considering the disappointing macro backdrop and increasing regulatory pressures. Our 2016 trends were largely as we guided, as continued revenue growth in target areas and cost control produced solid 10% pre-provision profit growth, which enabled us to absorb higher credit impairments. With headline earnings up 5%, our return on equity declined slightly to 16.6%.
We improved our revenue trajectory, as our top line increased 8%, driven largely by net interest income growth. It is evident, however, that our asset and deposit growth have slowed, given the sluggish economy and our prudent credit strategy. Costs remain well-managed, as savings in identified areas continue to fund investment in growth initiatives. We indicated last year that the credit cycle had turned, and our charge increased 26%, as we dealt with a single name CIB exposure and further strengthened our portfolio provisions, while retail credit impairments increased off a relatively low base.
Full details of our financial performance are contained in our 2016 Financial Results booklet and our 2016 Consolidated and separate financial statements.
Our balance sheet remains prudently positioned, with robust levels of capital, liquidity and provisioning. Strong internal capital generation improved our Common Equity Tier 1 ratio to 12.1%, above the 11.5% top end of our Board target range, enabling us to declare a 3% higher dividend per share.
We continue to benefit from our well-diversified portfolio, with CIB’s strong 27% earnings growth offsetting RBB and WIMI’s respective 3% and 4% lower earnings. Our Rest of Africa operations continue to enhance Group growth, with earnings and revenue increasing 17% and 16% respectively, in part due to average rand weakness during the period, which reversed towards the end of the year.