Malaysian banks remain resilient in economic uncertainties

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian banking system could continue to deliver resilient performance in the coming year although global and domestic conditions have become more uncertain, according to RAM Ratings.

RAM’s banking sector specialist Amy Lo said sturdy capitalisation and strong provisioning buffers have put banks in a good position to cope with fresh macroeconomic headwinds from the spillover effects of the Russia-Ukraine war.

“We expect the majority of bank ratings to stay intact in the next 12 months.

“Any rating action will likely be prompted by bank-specific challenges, rather than broad industry concerns,” she said during the RAM Insight Series titled “Banking Sector: Gearing up for the next challenge” webinar today.

According to Lo, the agency expects loan growth to come in at 4.5 per cent to 5.0 per cent in 2022 (2021: +4.5 per cent), driven by both household and business loans.

“Loan applications began to pick up in the fourth quarter of 2021, underpinned by pent-up demand and the reopening of the economy,” she said.

Lo said Bank Negara Malaysia’s two recent 25 basis point (bps) overnight policy rate hikes and another 25 bps increase expected in the second half of 2022 may dampen credit demand, but should not derail the loan growth momentum.

In addition, Lo noted that banks’ exposure to assisted loans dropped sharply to around eight per cent as at end-April to mid-May 2022, from 28 per cent as at end-December 2021.

“Impaired loans will inevitably creep up as relief measures are rolled off, alongside rising inflation and interest rates that may affect certain pockets of highly leveraged borrowers.

“The banking system’s gross impaired loan (GIL) ratio could climb to 2.2 per cent by year-end (end-May 2022: 1.64 per cent),” she said.

Meanwhile, RAM senior economist and co-head of economic research Woon Khai Jhek said economic recovery will tread a firmer path this year as the country transitions into an endemic phase.

“Domestic demand will be the key driver, supported by the resilient labour market and ongoing policy support measures, while exports will also stay strong with sustained demand for electrical and electronic goods.

“The firm momentum in the first of 2022 is anticipated to propel full-year growth to 5.8 per cent from 3.1 per cent in 2021,” he said.

However, Woon noted that downside risks have become more prominent as all-time high inflation puts the brakes on global growth, limiting the potential upside to Malaysia’s economic recovery. – Bernama

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