Malaysian banks’ assets quality is less vulnerable to economic disruptions

KUALA LUMPUR: Asset quality at the largest banks in Malaysia has been more resilient to economic disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak than at their peers in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, according to Moody’s Investor Service.

“The Malaysian banks also have sufficiently strong capital and liquidity buffers relative to their asset risks, although they are not as strong as their regional peers. These factors will enable the Malaysian banks to restore profitability faster than their regional peers,” Moody’s said in a report Thursday.

The agency said there was greater focus on retail loans that are largely secured, well regulated and supported by ample financial assets held by households.

“The asset-weighted average nonperforming loan (NPL) ratio for the largest banks in Malaysia declined slightly as of the end of 2020 from a year earlier despite the economic shock triggered by the pandemic.

“This is because authorities introduced relief measures for borrowers, such as loan restructuring and payment moratoriums, while allowing banks to not classify affected loans as default.

“With the fall, the largest banks in Malaysia had the lowest NPL ratio on average in the peer group at the end of 2020,” Moody’s said.

It noted that the stronger asset quality would enable Malaysian banks to restore profitability faster.

“Bottom-line profitability at banks in the four countries will improve in 2021, given that they have built sufficient loan-loss provisions against anticipated loan losses.

“Yet the Malaysian banks will see the fastest recovery because relatively lower asset risks reduce the need to keep provisions as high as their regional peers,” it said.

Moody’s said while Malaysian banks' capital and liquidity buffers were not as strong as regional peers' but it was still sufficient to cover any potential financial stress.

“The largest Malaysian banks' capital ratios are still sufficiently high, given relatively low asset risks in the country. Also, solvency risks that could potentially trigger a liquidity outflow are low, because their asset quality is strong,” it added.

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