In the quarter, DBS' net interest income fell 2 percent to S$1.82 billion ($1.3 billion) as the net interest margin fell 13 basis points to 1.71 percent. Non-interest income rose 19 percent to S$952 million ($671 million).
The non-performing loan rate climbed to 1.4 percent, up from 0.9 percent in the year-earlier quarter -- a significant part due to stresses in the oil and gas support services sector.
Full-year earnings came in at S$4.24 billion ($3 billion), falling 2 percent from a year earlier "as a stronger operating performance was offset by higher allowances." Excluding the allowances, profit rose 10 percent to S$6.52 billion ($4.6 billion).
The bank noted that its total income rose 6 percent on year to S$11.5 billion ($8.1 billion), its highest ever, on higher loan volumes, improved net interest margin and non-interest income growth.
DBS proposed a final dividend of 30 Singapore cents (21 cents) a share, for a full-year dividend of 60 Singapore cents (42 cents) a share, unchanged on year.
Gupta pointed in a statement to the rise in profit excluding allowances and said the strong operating performance was due to investments in multiple business divisions and efforts to digitize the bank.
"They enabled us to meet headwinds related to China and stresses in the oil and gas support services sector," he said in the statement. "The financial discipline we exercised over the years in building up buffers for capital, liquidity and allowance reserves has ensured that our balance sheet remains resilient. Our financial strength will stand us in good stead in the coming year."
DBS is the second Singapore-listed banks to report its fourth quarter earnings. On Tuesday, OCBC said net profit after tax for the fourth quarter declined 18 percent on-year to S$789 million ($556 million). Net allowances for loans and other assets of S$305 million ($215 million), a jump of 57 percent above S$193 million ($136 million) in the same quarter a year earlier.
UOB is scheduled to release its financial statement on Friday.
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—Reuters, CNBC's Leslie Shaffer and CNBC's Saheli Roy Choudhury contributed to this report.