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Saturday December 10th, 2022

Fitch cuts outlook of Sri Lanka’s NDB on risk appetite, falling capital

ECONOMYNEXT – Fitch Ratings said it was cutting the outlook on Sri Lanka’s ‘A (lka)’ rated National Development Bank to negative from stable, as the bank grew credit strongly taking on riskier smaller borrowers and capital buffers fell.

"The revision in the Outlook reflects our expectation of continued pressure on NDB’s capitalisation stemming from its rising risk appetite in terms of high loan growth and increasing exposure to riskier retail and SME customer segments," the rating agency said.

"Fitch believes the bank could remain challenged in the medium term to maintain capital buffers that are commensurate with its risk appetite, even with capital raising, due to its above-sector growth aspirations – loan growth has averaged at 18% annually since 2014 – and probable higher regulatory requirements as a domestic systemically important bank."

Fitch said capital requirements would rise in 2019 with NDB’s asset base topped 500 billion rupees (473bn by end 2018), which will require an extra 1.5 percent of capital, with the Tier 1 ratio at 10 percent and total at 14 percent.

By end September 2018, Tier I group capital was at 9.6 percent down from 12.9 percent in 2014 and at bank level 8.4 percent.

The bank is raising 6.5 billion rupees of Basel-compliant bail-in bonds which were rated ‘A(lka)’.

The full report is reproduced below:

Fitch Revises National Development Bank’s Outlook to Negative; Rates Basel III Sub-Debt ‘A(lka)(EXP)’

Fitch Ratings-Colombo-12 February 2019: Fitch Ratings has revised the Outlook on National Development Bank PLC’s (NDB) National Long-Term Rating to Negative from Stable and has affirmed the National Long-Term Rating at A+(lka). At the same time, Fitch has assigned the bank’s proposed Basel III-compliant subordinated unsecured debentures an expected National Long-Term Rating of ‘A(lka)(EXP)’.

The proposed debentures will total up to LKR6.5 billion with maturities of five years and will be listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. They will qualify as Basel III-compliant regulatory Tier 2 capital for the bank and include a non-viability clause whereby they will convert to ordinary shares if so determined by the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka. The bank plans to use the proceeds to strengthen its Tier 2 capital base and support loan-book expansion. The final rating is subject to the receipt of final documentation conforming to information already received.

Key Rating Drivers

NDB’s National Long-Term Rating reflects its developing franchise and satisfactory asset quality relative to peers, balanced against declining capitalisation and above-sector loan growth.

The revision in the Outlook reflects our expectation of continued pressure on NDB’s capitalisation stemming from its rising risk appetite in terms of high loan growth and increasing exposure to riskier retail and SME customer segments.

Fitch believes the bank could remain challenged in the medium term to maintain capital buffers that are commensurate with its risk appetite, even with capital raising, due to its above-sector growth aspirations – loan growth has averaged at 18% annually since 2014 – and probable higher regulatory requirements as a domestic systemically important bank (D-SIBs). Capitalisation has been weakening, with the group’s Tier 1 capital ratio declining to 9.6% at end-September 2018 (end-2014:12.9%), while the bank’s ratio stood at 8.4% (2014: 10.0%).

Fitch expects NDB to face greater capital pressure as its asset base is likely to cross the LKR500.0 billion threshold in 2019 (end-2018: LKR473 billion). This will require the bank to maintain minimum Tier 1 and total capital ratios of 10.0% and 14.0%, respectively, which include an additional regulatory capital buffer of 1.5% imposed on D-SIBs. The bank raised only LKR3.4 billion from its LKR6.2 billion rights issue in 4Q18, subsequent to which the Tier 1 ratio for the group and bank rose to 10.4% and 9.2% respectively at end-2018.

NDB expects to increase its exposure to the retail and SME segments, which Fitch regards as more vulnerable to deteriorating domestic economic conditions. The bank remains mostly exposed to corporates and its reported gross non-performing loan ratio (2.85% at end- 2018) compares well against peers, but its rising exposure to riskier customer segments could pressure asset quality, especially in light of rapid loan growth and Fitch’s expectation that the overall operating environment will remain challenging.

The bank’s near-term profitability has improved and its increased focus on retail and SME segments, as well as a higher share of rupee-based lending, could support better net-interest margins. However, the potential upside to the bank’s profitability is likely to be constrained by the bank’s relatively weak deposit franchise and potentially higher impairment charges. Fitch rates the proposed Tier II instrument one notch below the bank’s National Long-Term Rating to reflect the notes’ subordinated status and higher loss-severity risks relative to senior unsecured instruments.

The notes would convert to equity upon the occurrence of a trigger event, as determined by the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka. The bank’s legacy Basel II Sri Lanka rupee-denominated subordinated debt is also rated one notch below its National Long-Term Rating to reflect similar subordination to senior unsecured creditors. NDB’s National Long-Term Rating is used as the anchor rating for these instruments, as it reflects its standalone financial strength and best indicates the risk of the bank becoming non-viable. Fitch has not applied additional notching to the proposed notes for non-performance risk, as they have no goingconcern loss-absorption features, in line with the agency’s criteria.

Rating Sensitivities

NDB’s National Long-Term Rating could be downgraded if the bank cannot sustain its capitalisation at a level that is commensurate with its rising risk appetite. Fitch would revise the Outlook to Stable if the bank maintains sufficient capital buffers that are commensurate with its risk profile and similarly rated peers.

The rating of NDB’s Basel II and proposed Basel III compliant notes will move in tandem with its National Long-Term Rating.

(Colombo/Feb13/2019-SB)

 

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Sri Lanka opposition MP sees racist agenda behind behind pro-China demonstration

TNA MP Shanakiya Rasamanickam – Image credit: Facebook

ECONOMYNEXT – A protest held outside the Chinese embassy in Colombo against opposition legislator Shanakiyan Rasamanickam was likely the work of a paid group with little knowledge of Sri Lanka’s crisis and pushing someone else’s racist agenda, the MP said.

Rasamanickam told EconomyNext on Saturday December 10 that the protestors were peddling a familiar narrative of racism.

“These people are clearly on a racist agenda. We know how this agenda plays out and we know who is behind it from before, so it’s not anything new. People can connect the dots and figure out who might be behind this protest,” he said.

The hurriedly put together demonstration seemed to be against Rasamanickam’s controversial warnings of anti-China protests in Sri Lanka over Beijing’s purported reluctance to restructure the crisis-hit island nation’s debt.

A small group of protestors including a number of Buddhist monks had gathered outside the embassy premises on Friday December 09 condemning Rasamanickam’s statement in parliament that people will take to the streets against China in a “go home, China” wave of protests similar to the “go home, Gota” protests that unseated Sri Lanka’s powerful former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“I was actually very happy to see a protest happening against me in Colombo. This is the first time there was a protest held against me,” said Rasamanickam.

I”f you look at the group that were protesting, they are quite unaware of the current economic situation in the island,” he added.

One banner displayed by the pro-China protestors contained the words “let us strongly condemn the ‘Go home China’ statement by separatist Rasamanickam” in Sinhala, though the organisers had been careful to omit the word ‘separatist’ in the English translation of the slogan.

It is unclear at present who was behind the protest, but a placard carried by one of the protestors read “is this going from anti-Gota to anti-China”, indicating the possible involvement of pro-Rajapaksa elements.

“It looked like a paid  group of people who came with no knowledge of the country’s situation and was completely under the agenda of somebody else,” said the MP.

The Batticaloa district lawmaker claimed that some people had offered to organise a counter-protest against the pro-China demonstrators but he declined the offer.

“I refused it because the citizens aren’t silly. They are aware of their surroundings and what is going on, so we need not protest in that way,” he said.

A commotion also ensued at the demonstration when a woman started recording it on her mobile phone, prompting some of the protestors to demand that she leave. Words were exchanged, with the visibly agitated woman yelling at the protestors that they were conspiring to sell Sri Lanka to China.

What triggered the protest was an explosive remark by MP Rasamanickam on December 02 that if China were a true friend of Sri Lanka’s, it would agree to either write off the island nation’s 7.4 billion dollar debt or at least help restructure it.

Nearly a fifth of Sri Lanka’s public external debt is held by China, according to one calculation.

“If China, who has nearly 20,000 billion dollars, is truly Sri Lanka’s friend… offering 9 million litres of diesel or half a million kilos of rice isn’t real help,” said Rasamanickam, speaking in Sinhala.

“I say to China and the Chinese embassy that, as 22 million Sri Lankans irrespective of ethnic or religious differences got together to say ‘Go home, Gota’, don’t push us to a place where we will be saying ‘China, go home’,” he said.

Whatever the agenda behind Friday’s protestors, they are not alone in their opposition to Rasamanickam’s strong words against China. Main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Harsha de Silva was strongly critical of the statement, insisting that Sri Lanka cooperate with all countries.

Rasamanickam told EconomyNext that his words were misrepresented.

“What I said was ex President Gotabaya Rajapaksa didn’t listen to the voices of the people and people ended up saying ‘Gota Go Home’ and if the Chinese fail to address the issues and act in the interest of the Sri Lankan community, naturally people will start opposing them also. If that happens, I simply said that I will support them because for us our country and our people are the priority,” he said, adding that his speech had raised awareness among the public of the situation.

The MP has been raising his voice in parliament and elsewhere in recent days over what he claims is a hesitance on the part of China to assist in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring efforts. The 2.9 billion dollar extended fund facility (EFF) that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has offered to extend to the island nation is contingent upon the successful restructure of this outstanding in addition some stringent reforms that experts say are long overdue.

Colombo has been vague at best on the status of ongoing restructure talks with Sri Lanka’s creditors, and opposition lawmakers and others have expressed concern over what seems to be a worrying delay. Rasamanickam and others have claimed that China, Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral creditor, is the reason for the apparent standstill.

Meanwhile, IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva has called on China to speed up restructuring of debt in Sri Lanka and Zambia following a meeting with the leaders of the country.

“We had a very fruitful exchange, both on the G20 Common Framework and on some specific cases,” she said in a statement after the meeting.

“We need to build on the momentum of the agreement on Chad’s debt treatment and accelerate and finalize the debt treatments for Zambia and Sri Lanka, which would allow for disbursements from the IMF and multilateral development banks,” she said. (Colombo/Dec10/2022)

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IMF chief calls on China to speed up Sri Lanka, Zambia debt overhaul

ECONOMYYNEXT- International Monetary Fund Chief Kristalina Georgieva has called on China to speed up restructuring of debt in Sri Lanka and Zambia following a meeting with the leaders of the country.

“We had a very fruitful exchange, both on the G20 Common Framework and on some specific cases,” she said in a statement after the meeting.

“We need to build on the momentum of the agreement on Chad’s debt treatment and accelerate and finalize the debt treatments for Zambia and Sri Lanka, which would allow for disbursements from the IMF and multilateral development banks.”

Sri Lanka is discussions with the Export Import Bank of China as the lead lender to the island, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe told parliament.

China has informed Sri Lanka that they will also hold bilateral discussions with the IMF and World Bank he said.

China has been asking questions from Sri Lanka and lenders were trying to assess the impact on credits to other countries as well as the domestic economy, he said.

China is a top lender to Sri Lanka along with Japan, the Asian Development Bank and Japan.

Some of China’s infrastructure loans have also been questioned for lack of proper feasibility, though a coal plant is generally acknowledged to be best investment the country has made since the 1980s and is enough to cover many since.

But China gave several so-called ‘cover up loans’ to Sri Lanka which was not linked to infrastructure or economic reforms when the country ran into forex shortages under ‘flexible inflation targeting/output gap targeting’ compounding borrowings from sovereign bond investors.

Sri Lanka calls such monetary instability linked borrowings ‘bridging finance’.

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank or Japan does not give such ‘bridging finance’ or budget support loans without reforms to expand economic activities.

Sri Lanka central government net debt (after deducting foreign reserves) which was 17 billion US dollars after almost 65 years of foreign borrowings shot up to 32 billion US dollars over 7 years of extreme monetary instability. Meanwhile foreign reserves became negative.

Resorting foreign borrowings to meet foreign repayments comes from a Mercantilist fallacy known as the ‘transfer problem’, analysts have said.

Related

Sri Lanka debt crisis trapped in spurious Keynesian ‘transfer problem’ and MMT: Bellwether

Policy makers believe that a current account surplus is magically required to make foreign repayments and not higher interest rates to curtail domestic investments and consumption which make resources available to meet such payments which will in turn reduce the imports and any current account deficit. (Colombo/Dec10/2022)

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Sri Lanka has excess rice amid malnutrition: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is to harvest a good rice harvest in the upcoming main (Maha) cultivation season but paddy stocks from two previous seasons are still with farmers and collectors, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“I see now that we will get a good harvest in the Maha season,” President Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament.

“That is also a problem, because we have some leftover rice stocks from the recent Yala (minor) season and the previous Maha season.”

“Now there can be situation of excess rice, we have to protect the farmers. On the other had we will have food to reduce malnutrition.”

Sri Lanka’s rice farmers do not grow and internationally traded grade of rice and bumper harvests do not lead to export booms but calls for trade restrictions on the hungry and helpless to ‘protect’ their incomes.

Rough rice (paddy) prices have fallen to around 80 rupees a kilogram, from over 120 rupees at the height of the crisis earlier in the year when large volumes of money was injected to the banking system to sterilize interventions and pay state workers.

Food Price Crisis

Though supplies are coming back to normal, because soft-pegging macro-economists destroyed the rupee from 200 to 360 to the US dollar by printing money for two years to keep interest rates down, prices are double before from the liquidity injections or ‘stimulus’ started.

The malnutrition is coming from monetary instability involving the collapse of the anchor-conflicting ‘flexible exchange rate and not a problem in the real economy as excess food supplies show.

Related Impoverished Sri Lankans are selling assets, eating less: WFP

Sri Lanka’s chicken farmers are also looking for export opportunities.

Related Sri Lanka chicken farmers eye exports as domestic prices drop

Sri Lanka is now in the worst the worst currency crisis triggered it the history of its intermediate regime (flexible exchange rate) central bank.

With salaries not keeping pace, incomes many sectors, mostly salaried workers including daily wage earners are too low to afford food whether or not they are plentiful, leading to malnutrition especially of the children of poor families.

The phenomenon has a been a recurring problem in the country after the soft-pegged central bank was set up 72 years ago.

Before 1980, when depreciation became fashionable in Washington policy making circles (now called a flexible exchange rate and BBC policy at that time), import controls were the main threat to food supplies, not soaring prices and lagging wages.

Food Trade Controls

In the 2022 currency crisis soft-pegging macro-economist in a mistaken strategy then banned ‘open account imports’ threatening food supplies ranging from lentils to onions and sugar to wheat that usually come from South Asia and Dubai, driving up prices.

But Wickremesinghe then opened account imports, preventing a real food crisis from taking place, allowing money flowing through traditional gross settlement systems (Undiyal/Hawala) to be easily prioritized for food.

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Sri Lanka can trigger food shortages as in medicines with new trade controls

Sri Lanka food importers seek exemption from open account trade ban

Sri Lanka removes ban on open account food imports

Food imports in Sri Lanka are only around 100 to 150 million dollars a month which is about third of monthly worker remittances and about 10 percent of total exports.

However the central bank under Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe took the required action to liberalize rates allowing credit to slow and stabilize the external sector.

The government also raised energy prices to keep in line with flexible exchange rate collapse (also a recurring phenomenon) and raised taxes to reduce domestic credit (also recurring action).

President Wickremesinghe and his advisors focused their efforts on getting loans from foreign lenders to buy fertilizer for farmers after he took over as Prime Minister and later President.

Fertilizer supplies are important in a currency crisis not just to produce food as normal but the construction sector usually has to be smashed to stop balance of payments deficits and to stop the rupee from falling further.

When rural workers engaged in construction return home to farming areas availability of fertilizer will help them keep in employment.

Open Market Injections

Construction and other sectors undergo an artificial boom when a soft-pegging central bank suppresses rates with its open market operations and sells downs reserves when the currency peg comes under pressure.

Selling reserves and printing money through open market operations to stop rates going up – an action called ‘sterilized intervention’ – effectively injects what classical economists called ‘fictitious capital’ into banks and artificially pushing up credit and imports further by effectively re-financing private sector activities with central bank credit.

The new money to sterilize interventions over-extending a credit cycle and encourages more imports.

In the current crisis Sri Lanka’s Consumer Affairs Authority, by imposing price controls, disrupted sectors like poultry sector and created black markets.

President Wickremesinghe has so far not taken any actions to abolish the CAA or its price controlling powers which goes against his ‘social market economy’ strategy. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)

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