Declining yields on securities: Need for banks to grow risk-weighted assets

by | April 25, 2018 1:12 am



Nigerian banks must grow risk-weighted assets to hedge against the impact of declining yields on securities, if they must remain profitable in 2018.

“For two years, Nigerian banks have had an easy time, earning good income on risk-free government-backed, Naira-denominated securities. That era is drawing to a close as T-bill rates fall. Asset yields are trending south, and it is almost impossible to re-price liabilities to match. So, banks must either find other sources of income or face an average 15 percent drop in their Profits Before Tax expectation for 2018. For the banks to replace the portion of income threatened by declining yields on securities, they must grow risk-weighted assets. This means a 6-12 percent rise in customer loans in 2018,” Guy Czartoryski, head of Research, Coronation Merchant Bank Group said.

Interest on securities represented 30 percent of total gross interest earned in nine months of 2017, averaged across Nigerian banks rated by Fitch Ratings, compared with 23 percent in the same period in 2016.

Coronation Research, a subsidiary of Coronation Merchant Bank Group recently released its 2018 Forecast for Nigerian Banks report, which clearly stated that the ability to support risk asset creation in the real sector will differentiate winners from losers in the Nigerian banking industry over the next three years.

While the quality of asset in the industry is generally improving, the firm believes the best capitalized banks will move well ahead of their competitors.

The report categorizes banks into three tiers; Group A, Group B and Group C. Banks in Group A, being the most well capitalized, have the biggest opportunity to increase consumer lending. According to the report, Group A includes Zenith Bank, GT Bank and Stanbic IBTC, which have the ability to significantly expand their loan books by 69 percent, 82 percent and 182 percent respectively. Group B, including UBA, Access Bank and Fidelity Bank, have moderate capital levels and some ability to expand loans books but may also pursue tier II capital raise in the form of long-term subordinated debt. Group C, including FBNH, Diamond Bank and Sterling Bank, in the short to medium term have limited ability to expand their loans books and will most likely focus on dealing with capital issues and might attempt to raise long term capital from the capital market.

According to Coronation Research, “if equity markets are sufficiently strong, some banks might attempt equity capital increases (Tier-I) this year. However, currently we have market valuations so low as to make equity capital dilute the interest of existing shareholders. So, the preferred capital-raising route is likely to be long-term subordinated debt (Tier-II). We expect market share in customer lending to flow from banks in Group C towards those in Group A. With banks in Group B we see some, but perhaps not significant, market share gains.”

Leaving capital raising aside, 2018 presents a golden opportunity for the stronger banks to expand loan books and gain market share.  Nigerian banks are coming off a low base: lending (when adjusted for currency depreciation) has hardly grown over two years, but the economic conditions look good for renewed loan growth. Loan growth, over the last two years, has been far from impressive and understandably so, since banks have remained cautious as they have grappled with the effects of oil price volatility and its impacts on their loan books.

Even though we believe the underlying pressure on loan assets is getting lighter, there is still IFRS 9 to contend with. “We expect a one-off uptick in impairment charges this year, given that banks will start reporting using IFRS 9 this quarter. With oil prices largely stable and our optimistic economic outlook for 2018, we view the risk to banks’ oil portfolios as significantly reduced. Also, the stability in the foreign exchange market, coupled with renewed economic growth, significantly mitigates the risks associated with the trading and manufacturing sectors of the economy”.

HOPE MOSES-ASHIKE