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IT will be an uphill task for banks to see a quick recovery in their earnings now that the government has said that the current loan moratorium under the Financial Management and Resilient Programme (URUS) has been extended for another two years.
According to the announcement, the extension of the moratorium is open to those who make up the country’s bottom 50% (in terms of income level).
Amid a bumpy economic recovery, banks will have to deal with this extended moratorium, while also managing factors like Covid-19, rising inflation, increasing costs and a one-off Prosperity Tax payment to the government.
These will largely form the basis of their 2022 performance.
To be sure, there will be also the emergence of digital banks next year, making it an interesting year to say the least, for lenders.
“The digital banks will be here very soon and I am expecting some game-changing products and services in the sector,” says Danny Wong, CEO and fund manager at Areca Capital.Wong, whose portfolio comprises several banking stocks, goes further to predict that there could be mergers next year among the banking players in order to create “stronger and sustainable banks”.Danny Wong
“On a long-term basis, I am cautious on the banks that are less innovative and lag behind in terms of embracing technology in their business,” he says.
He remains fairly positive on the recovery and reopening of the local economy in 2022, which should be good for banks, amid expectations of fresh pandemic waves.
“I don’t expect a terrible situation on their balance/loan books even with this extended moratorium, unless another really big wave of the pandemic happens again.
“Most banks have made their provisions last year, and the recent results revealed no further big provisions, indicating that they are happy with their loan books for now,” Wong adds.
Bankers themselves are generally optimistic but remain cautious.
AMMB Holdings group CEO Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir says any impact with regards to the URUS programme will be “manageable”.AMMB Holdings group CEO Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir
The current moratorium – a temporary halt of loan payments by bank borrowers – is in place as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused many, especially those from the lower-income group, to not be able to service their loans because of factors like job losses and closure of business.
The government implemented the first moratorium in April last year. The moratoriums will further delay the recognition of banks’ non-performing loans (NPLs) and may lengthen the time needed for banks’ credit costs and profitability to revert to normal, says Fitch Ratings.