Malaysian banks’ net interest margins likely under pressure

PETALING JAYA: Net interest margins (NIMs) of banks are expected to come under pressure and affect earnings in the medium-term as competition for deposits intensifies.

The slower economic growth next year may also put a drag on bank’s earnings moving forward, but analysts believed pre-emptive provisions made earlier may cushion the impact.

NIM is a measure of the difference between the interest income generated by banks and interest paid out to depositors. A wider NIM indicates higher earnings for banks.

Hong Leong Investment Bank (HLIB) Research, which maintained its “neutral” call on the banking sector.

“There will be smaller sequential NIM expansion moving forward,” the research house said.

It attributed this, among others, to repricing of fixed deposits (FDs) which would normally be done six to nine months from the first overnight policy rate hike that started in May.It also expects current-account-savings-account deposits being consumed and substituted to FD and price competition for FD to pressure NIMs.

According to the research house, loan growth is expected to chug along for now. Separately, it said the gross impaired loan (ratio is likely to rise but is not overly worried since banks have made heavy pre-emptive provisions in financial year 2020 to 2021 (FY20-21) to cushion this impact.

After a couple of profit revisions this earnings reporting season, HLIB is now projecting two-year aggregate earnings compounded annual growth rate (of 9.6% (2022 to 2024) for the sector versus 10.4% growth forecast earlier.

“Despite undemanding valuations, we are now less bullish on the banking sector as we see tailwinds dissipating due to lesser rate hikes next year, intense deposit rivalry, and softer macroeconomic outlook.

“Moreover, investment fatigue is building up in the sector, considering that ‘buy’ merits employed for the past one to two years are becoming stale.

“Notably, the Kuala Lumpur Finance Index performance is not trending any higher and has been range-bound.

“We only have two ‘buy’ recommendations under our coverage, namely, RHB Bank Bhd (target price (TP): RM6.60) and BIMB Holdings Bhd (TP: RM3). The former is favoured for its high common equity tier-one (CET1) ratio and attractive price-point while we like the latter for its laggard share price showing,” it noted.

According to the Bank for International Settlements, a CET1 is the highest quality of regulatory capital, as it absorbs losses immediately when they occur, and a bank’s tier-one capital must include a minimum ratio of 4.5% of CET1 to its risk-weighted assets.