Outlook for local banking sector remains challenging: Kenanga Research

PETALING JAYA: The banking sector’s outlook is challenging due to external concerns while clarity and direction on the domestic front remain murky, according to Kenanga Research, which maintained a neutral stance for the sector as no fundamental change is expected, and the sector lacks concrete catalysts.

“We view the industry with caution as uncertainties and headwinds still prevail. The industry remains unexciting, dragged by moderate loan growth and soft capital markets. Prevailing negative sentiment both globally and domestically will continue to drive volatility and uncertainty in the industry. Caution will still prevail due to the soft economy outlook globally,“ the research house said in a note today.

It said banks with healthy asset quality (hence low impairment allowances) will still be the favour due to their defensive quality.

“As such, selective asset growth will still be the focus for the banks. Despite stable economic outlook in the domestic environment coupled with low unemployment, we opine that cautiousness and selective assets growth will still prevail in the industry,“ Kenanga Research explained.

It said loan growth moving forward will still be moderate as uncertainties prevail with fee-based income expected to be soft as a result of the volatile capital market. However, with the stable outlook, this will support a moderate and stable credit charge for the industry.

“We expect impairment allowances (credit costs) to be stable and consistent (as it had been generally in 2018) which will lend support to the banks’ bottom line. We do not discount another potential up-cycle of impairment allowances, especially those highly exposed to the energy sector (CIMB, Maybank and RHB Bank) as energy prices have been under pressure due to the perceived economic slowdown both domestically and globally.”

Kenanga Research expects mild compression for net interest margin (NIM) as most of the banks’ loan-to-deposit ratio and loan-to-fund ratio are over 90% and 80%, respectively, as compression will be mitigated by soft credit demand. The deferment of NSFR (net stable funding ratio) into 2020 plus the absence of high credit demand will support the outlook for a stable to mild compression in NIM.

“However, looking at the slowing momentum in household demand, we do not discount the likelihood of competitive lending rates in the short term as banks strive to achieve their loan growth target. This competition will ultimately lead to further downside pressure on NIM.”

The research house has revised downwards the 2018/2019 earnings estimates by 80bps/30bps to +6.7%/+5.6% respectively.

“For 2019, earnings are slower at +5.6% year-on-year (yoy) as we based from these assumptions of credit charge at 0.33%; and slight compression on NIM by 3bps and a higher pace from fee-based income (+6.6% yoy due to a lower base).”

It also toned its outlook on loan growth for FY18 at +4.7% (from +4.9% previously) on account of revision of prevailing headwinds.

Kenanga Research reiterated its outperform call for BIMB Holdings Bhd, as its financing portfolio (70% of total financing) is skewed towards household (75% first-time buyers for residential property) with focus on growing its personal financing will minimise NIM compression.

Another preferred pick is Malaysia Building Society Bhd (MBSB), which is expected to achieve 3-4% growth driven by corporate loans/financing as another RM950 million is expected to be disbursed in Q4 18.

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