Mortgage Choice has slashed its interim dividend after a 44 per cent fall in first-half profit, citing uncertainty over the long-term effects of a final royal commission report that recommended an overhaul of the broking industry.
The mortgage broker said its first-half net profit slumped to $6.39 million, from $11.43 million a year earlier, after revenue for the six months to December 31 fell nine per cent to $87.19 million.
It cut its interim dividend by two-thirds to three cents and pointed to the recommendation by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne that trailing commissions to mortgage brokers for new loans be banned.
"The company’s board of directors have decided it is prudent to retain a proportion of the company’s earnings to address the uncertainty arising from the royal commission's recommendations regarding broker remuneration," Mortgage Choice said in a statement.
Hayne recommended the industry move from a commission-based pay structure to a fee-based model in the interest of greater clarity for consumers.
The company said it "was surprised by the recommendations related (to) broker remuneration and believe they have gone too far," adding that a borrower-pays model "could decimate the broking industry and many of the smaller lenders who rely on it for distribution".
“The half-year results are as we anticipated," chief executive Susan Mitchell said, adding that the fall in profit was largely due to "changes to the broker remuneration model account" and the new set up that started in August.
Mortgage Choice was forced to overhaul its remuneration structure last year following unrest from franchisees.
"The new broker remuneration model has been in place for five months and pays franchisees more whilst reducing their income volatility when the market slows," Ms Mitchell said.
The loan broker said its bottom line was also affected by declining property prices, especially recent accelerating falls in Sydney and Melbourne.
"Settlement volumes have been impacted by the slowing property and home loan markets," Ms Mitchell said.
Mortgage Choice settlements for the half year fell 12 per cent from the prior comparative period to $5.3 billion.
The company said it was on track to cut expenses by 10 per cent for the full year.
Shares in the company were up 7.09 per cent to 75.5 cents at 1300 AEDT amid reports the Labor party was reconsidering its policy on brokers.