January 05, 2018 09:58AM / Fitch
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.
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.
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%).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.