January 4, 2018 / 10:27 AM / a year ago

Fitch: T-Bill Supply Slowdown May Hurt Nigerian Bank Profits

(The following statement was released by the rating agency) LONDON, January 04 (Fitch) Nigerian banks may find it more difficult to sustain profitability given the decline in net treasury bill (T-bill) issuance in Nigeria's 1Q18 issuance programme, Fitch Ratings says. The slowdown in T-bill issuance marks a change of strategy as the government looks to increase its financing from external sources and longer-dated domestic issuances. Record T-bill issuance in 2017 helped support the Central Bank of Nigeria's strategy to maintain naira exchange-rate stability. High yields on T-bills issued in 2017 (around 13%-14% on 90-day T-bills) attracted investors and helped to support the naira. An increase in oil export earnings and the introduction in April 2017 of the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing (NAFEX) mechanism, commonly referred to as the "Investors and Exporters' FX Window", also helped naira stabilisation during the second half of 2017. Nigerian banks are highly reliant on net interest income for profitability and T-bills proved to be an important source of profits in 2017. Interest on securities represented 30% of total gross interest earned in 9M17, averaged across Nigerian banks rated by Fitch (2016: 23%). By end-September 2017, government securities including T-bills represented more than 15% of the banks' assets as new lending fell, reflecting weak credit demand, tighter underwriting standards and banks' reluctance to extend new loans as they focused on extensive restructuring of troubled oil-related and other portfolios. Even the country's largest banks cut back on new lending, with Guaranty Trust Bank's stock of outstanding loans falling 10% during 9M17, FBN Holdings' by 4.6%, Zenith's by 3.7% and Access's by 1.1%. United Bank for Africa's loan book grew 5.6%, but this is likely to have been driven by non-Nigerian lending as the bank operates in 22 other African countries. We expect falling T-bill yields and lower issuance to put pressure on Nigerian banks' profitability in 2018. The CBN's latest issuance schedule shows NGN1.1 trillion (USD3.6 billion) of rollovers in 1Q18 against NGN1.3 trillion of maturing bills. In 2017, rollovers fully covered maturing bills. Performance metrics at all banks will be affected by weak demand for lending, falling T-bill yields, lower foreign-currency translation gains and rising loan impairment charges, but the largest banks are best placed to withstand these challenges. Operating returns are still strong at GTB (9M17 operating return on average equity (ROAE): 37%), Zenith (28%), UBA (22%) and Access (20%), while FBNH's operating ROAE is lower (12%) but improving. However, some second-tier banks with a 9M17 operating ROAE of 4%-6% may struggle to remain profitable in 2018. We highlighted falling profitability for Nigerian banks in our 2018 Outlook report for sub-Saharan banks, available by clicking on the link below. Our 2018 rating outlook for the Nigerian banking sector is negative, reflecting continued fragility in the operating environment and the Negative Outlook on the sovereign's 'B+' rating. Contact: Janine Dow Senior Director, Financial Institutions - Banks +44 20 3530 1464 Fitch Ratings Limited 30 North Colonnade London E14 5GN David Prowse Senior Analyst, Fitch Wire +44 20 3530 1250 The above article originally appeared as a post on the Fitch Wire credit market commentary page. The original article can be accessed at www.fitchratings.com. All opinions expressed are those of Fitch Ratings. Media Relations: Peter Fitzpatrick, London, Tel: +44 20 3530 1103, Email: peter.fitzpatrick@fitchratings.com. Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com Related Research ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: here. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEB SITE AT WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA, AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE, AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE CODE OF CONDUCT SECTION OF THIS SITE. DIRECTORS AND SHAREHOLDERS RELEVANT INTERESTS ARE AVAILABLE here. FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH WEBSITE.

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