Major banks analysis

Still a balancing act

More positive contributions came from regional operations outside South Africa – emphasizing the growing importance of those businesses and the rest-of-Africa growth strategies all of the major banks have consistently focused on over recent years.

Overview

An analysis of the major South Africa banks’ result for the period ended 30 June 2019 reveals a picture of a domestic economy under stress in a low-growth environment and constrained as a result of a slow pace of structural reforms. This challenging picture is further coloured by multiple global economic headwinds and a macroeconomic context that remains complex and fraught with forecast risk.

As is well understood, banks are, by virtue of their roles as financial intermediaries, sensitive to stresses in the domestic economy and the broader global economic context. Current lackluster economic conditions translated into heightened credit risk and subdued client activity across all customer segments during the period, and contributed to earnings pressure over 1H19, particularly in relation to the major banks’ local operations.

However comparatively more positive contributions came from regional operations outside South Africa – emphasizing the growing importance of those businesses and the rest-of-Africa growth strategies all of the major banks have consistently focused on over recent years.

 

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Key findings

Headline earnings

Although the performances between the individual banks varied, one a combined basis the four major banks posted headline earnings of R42,49bn, which grew 5.3% against 1H18, but only 0.2% against. 2H18. To some extent, this reflects the effects of slower than expected GDP growth over 1H19, relatively muted corporate credit demand and generally lower activity on the part of SA Inc. during the first half of the year.

 

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Efficiency

Tight cost control and a disciplined approach to cost management is an area that the banks have consistently focused on over recent reporting periods. The outcome of their efforts is reflected in the major banks combined results through operating expenses growing 7% against 1H18, but falling 1.6% against 2H18, resulting in an overall positive operating leverage experience (operating income grew faster than costs) for 1H19.

 

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Return on equity

Major banks remain robustly capitalised, comfortably above regulatory minima across all capital tiers, while generating commendable returns. During the current period, the combined common equity tier 1 capital ratio improved marginally by 3bpd to 12.3% while the combined ROE shrunk by 30bps to 18.5% when compared 1H18 (19.0% at 2H18).

 

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Credit growth and asset quality

Notwithstanding the subdued economic conditions that prevailed over, 1H19, the aggregate loan book registered growth of 9% against 1H18 (and a more moderate 3.7% against 2H18). The theme we had previously observed of retail credit demand outpacing corporate lending continued in the current period for some banks, with growth mainly attributable to business banking products and credit cards.

 

 

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South Africa is delicately balanced at the moment. We have deep socioeconomic issue exacerbated by low growth and intractable issues in our state-owned sector, but we have a sophisticated financial services environment, good infrastructure, a highly regarded judiciary and reserve bank, and skilled private-sector management. I think there is growth potential. Top South African companies are finding ways to move ahead, although in many cases far more slowly than they would like. If the government made some clear decisions aimed at unlocking impediments to growth, the rate of growth could pick up dramatically.

Nicky Newston-King, CEO: Johannesburg Stock Exchange

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Costa  Natsas

Costa Natsas

Financial Services Industry Leader

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Rivaan Roopnarain

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Francois Prinsloo

Francois Prinsloo

Banking and Capital Markets Industry Leader

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