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Friday January 27th, 2023

Sri Lanka banks facing challenges in current crisis as bad loans spike: Central Bank

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s banks are facing higher bad loans as interest rates rise and the economy contracts the central bank said as the country in the those of the worst currency crisis in the history of the intermediate regime monetary authority.

Stage 3 bad loan had reached 10.6 percent of loans, while banks were also hit by mark to market losses and possible re-structuring losses.

Sri Lanka’s rupee collapsed from 200 to 360 to the US dollar in 2022 after two years of money printing blew the balance of payments apart and interest rates shot up to 30 percent and the economy is expected to contract more than 8 percent this year.

“The financial sector is likely to encounter significant challenges in the face of the current economic environment with the contraction in economic output, sovereign debt restructuring, high interest rate environment, tax revisions and high exposure of the banking sector to SOBEs,” the central bank said in a report issued before the budget.

“At present, an increasing trend in impaired loans is observed due to the present adverse macroeconomic circumstances and is expected to further increase in view of contemporary weak economic conditions despite the concessions granted to borrowers by the industry to confront the challenges.”

Sri Lanka has been hit by serial currency crises in 2015/16, 2018 and 2020/2022 under flexible inflation targeting where discretion is given to print money under an inflation target as high as 6 percent through multiple liquidity tools.

Each crisis is accompanied by an output shock and a spike in bad loans. The 2022 crisis was followed by sovereign default and there are concerns of domestic debt restructuring. The 2022 crisis came on top of a Coronavirus crisis.

The central bank had a plan to progressively build capital buffers and they were still above statutory minimum by August 2022. An end 2022 capital requirement had been deferred till 2023.

Now bad loans were rising fast.

“Asset quality of the sector deteriorated in terms of stage 3 loans to total loans ratio. Stage 3 loans increased by Rs. 475.1 billion, recording a growth of 56.9 % and reached Rs. 1.3 trillion as at end August 2022,” the central bank said.

“Furthermore, stage 3 loans to total loans ratio increased to 10.6 % by end August 2022 from 7.6 % as at end 2021 induced by the increase in stage 3 loans and lower growth in credit.

“…[B]anking sector stability may be threatened by rising challenges in maintaining its capital ratios above regulatory minimum levels and a substantial deterioration in capital buffers due to
the impact of adverse macroeconomic conditions.”

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Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite rising costs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite higher taxes, rising costs like energy, officials said as the country goes through the worst currency crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank.

High inflation following a collapse of the currency has reduced real incomes of customers.

“There are many factors to consider, especially with the last price increase we did in last year did not resulted in a significant increase in revenue” Pradeep De Almeida · Group Chief Technology Officer at Dialog Axiata said at the launch of its Future zone at Lotus tower.

In September,2022 following an electricity tarrif hike dialog increased its tariffs on Mobile, Fixed Telephone, Broadband Plans and Value Added Services (Prepaid and Postpaid) by 20 percent while tariffs on all Pay Television Services were raised 25 percent.

Value Added Tax (VAT) was also raised by the government from 12 percent to 15 percent on all Telecommunications and Pay TV services.

“Even though we increase the prices we only saw around 8-9 percent increase in revenue,” Almeida said.

“That is because many users cut off their usage to limit the spending”.

Dialog will increase efficiencies and manage costs in an attempt to avoid prices increases for customers, he said.

Over the 24 months to December 2022, Sri Lanka;s central bank has generated inflation of 76 percent, based on the Colombo Consumer Price Index official data shows. Following the currency collapse, more power tariff hikes are planned.

“We are trying to mainly bear the cost from our side. We are getting a massive support from our parent company Telekom Malaysia International,” Navin Peiris, Group Chief Enterprise Officer at Dialog told EconomyNext.

“Therefore as of now, there is no plan to increase prices”. (Colombo/Jan 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka shares fall at market close on profit taking

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares fell on Thursday as profit taking entered the market mainly on financial and diversified sectors, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) fell 0.13 percent or 11.50 points to close at 8,926.56.

“The market was trading on dull trade mainly due to profit taking,” an analyst said.

“Also we saw investors taking a sideline as quarterly reports started to come”.

The earnings in the first quarter of 2023 are expected to be negative with revised up taxes and an imminent electricity tariff hike.

Earnings in the second quarter are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

The central bank’s policy decision was expected and investors have been eying on IMF deal with hopes of rapid economic recovery from the current unprecedented economic crisis, however since the market gained in the last sessions profit taking has come about, analysts said.

The market has been on a rising trend on the hopes of a faster IMF deal. However, the central bank government said the IMF deal is likely in the quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 fell  0.33 percent or 9.21 points to 2,798.

LOLC had seen some attention by investors as the firm disposed 90,256,750 shares held with Agstar PLC at 15-17.50 rupees a share.

The market witnessed a turnover of 1.2 billion rupees, lower than the month’s daily average of 1.9 billion rupees.

Expolanka dragging the market down closed 2.36 percent down at 186.7 rupees a share. Sampath bank fell 1.41 percent to close at 42 rupees a share while Royal Ceramic Lanka closed 2.59 percent dwn at 30.1 rupees a share.


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Sri Lanka bonds yields steady at close

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bond yields were steady at close on Thursday, dealers said, while a guidance peg for interbank transactions by the Central Bank remained steady.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.00/20 percent unchanged from the last close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 26.60/90 percent, up from 28.50/70 percent on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 28.60/85 percent, up from 28.50/60 percent at the last close.

The three months bill closed at 29.75/30.25 percent unchanged from the last close.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank US dollar transactions appreciated by another 2 cents to 362.14 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at 360.49 rupees on Thursday, data showed.  (Colombo/Jan 26/2022)

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