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• Stable loan growth. The banking industry kept up its loan growth pace of 10.9%
yoy in Mar 09. This was partly driven by a 20-30% jump in loans classified as
“others”, which are loans extended to government agencies and non-bank
financial institutions. Business loan growth decelerated from 10% in Feb 09 to
9.5% in Mar 09 while the growth pace for consumer loans was sustained at 8.8%.
• Lethargic leading loan indicators. Leading loan indicators remained subdued in
Mar 09 – loan applications rose by only 4.8% yoy while loan approvals dipped by
0.7% yoy. The business loan segment was the culprit, with applications and
approvals dwindling 11-13% yoy and offsetting the 13-22% increase in the
indicators for consumer loans.
• Still expecting loan momentum to lose steam. We continue to expect a sharp
fall-off in industry loan growth from 12.8% in 2008 to 2-3% in 2009 given (1) the
sluggish leading loan indicators, (2) slower economic growth, and (3) the downshift
in car sales.
• Sliding lending rates. In response to the OPR cut on 24 Feb 09, banks reduced
their fixed deposit (FD) rates a few days later but BLRs for most banks were
lowered later by about 40bp in early Mar. As a result, FD rates were stable at 2.02-
2.52% but the average lending rate shrank by 105bp yoy and 33bp mom to an alltime
low of 5.16%.
• Ample liquidity. As loan growth of 10.9% outpaced the deposit growth of 8%,
banks’ loan-to-deposit rate tightened to 73.7% as at end-Mar 09 from 70.8% a
year ago. The system still has plenty of excess liquidity estimated to be about
RM219bn in mid-Apr 09 vs. RM216.8bn as at end-Mar 09.
• NPL ratio still improving, for now. Banks’ 3-month net NPL ratio declined by
73bp yoy to 2.2% in Mar 09 but was stable mom. Gross NPL ratio also fell by
154bp yoy and 21bp mom to 4.6%. The reserve coverage improved from 76.5% a
year ago to 86.4%, aided by a 16.9% yoy drop in gross NPLs against a 6.1%
decline in total provisioning.
• Maintain NEUTRAL. We remain NEUTRAL on Malaysian banks as the stillhealthy
banking numbers suggest that banks could perform better than we and the
market expect despite the downbeat economic outlook. Although banks’ net
earnings are estimated to pull back 6.5% this year, we anticipate a 17.4% rebound
in 2010. Over the longer term, many banks will also reap the benefits from their
ongoing revamps and regional expansion. Public Bank remains our top pick for the