Saudi banks well placed says Moody's
Limassol, August 4, 2008
The credit outlook for the Saudi banking system is positive, reflecting the banks' good positioning and ability to benefit from the country's robust economic performance, says Moody's Investors Service report.
In its latest 'Banking System Outlook' report for Saudi Arabia, the rating agency has focused on the likely future direction of fundamental credit conditions in the industry over the next 12 to 18 months.
It does not represent a projection of rating upgrades versus downgrades.
In addition to the banking system Outlook, which focuses on performance measures and forward-looking rating drivers for the Saudi banking system, Moody's has also published a 'Banking System Profile' report for Saudi Arabia.
The Profile forms part of a new series of reports on banking systems throughout the world, which are designed to complement Moody's Banking System Outlook reports by serving as descriptive reference guides to key structural factors that are reflected in Moody's bank credit ratings.
"Moody's positive outlook for the direction of credit conditions in the Saudi banking system is primarily underpinned not only by the country's robust economic performance, benefiting from oil revenue windfalls, and strengthened government finances, but also by the government's commitment to diversification," said Constantinos Kypreos, a Moody's vice-president/senior analyst and author of the reports.
"This has partly been demonstrated by announced infrastructure projects worth in excess of $350 billion over the next few years," he added.
The analyst adds that challenges remain -- with inflation now exceeding 10 per cent, geopolitical risks and an economy that is still dependent on oil revenues and hence displays considerable volatility -- but that the overall impact on the banking sector will, in Moody's view, be positive, at least over the short-to-medium term.
The accommodative operating environment has also allowed Saudi banks to maintain strong financial fundamentals. Although the banking sector's financial indicators may have peaked in 2006 and 2007, Moody's anticipates that they will remain strong, the report added.
The ten Saudi banks rated by Moody's also have established and defensible local franchises, partly reflecting their dominance and their success in penetrating under-developed market segments, including retail banking and Islamic banking services, while they are all well-placed to potentially capitalise on the upcoming mortgage law.
They have also improved their risk management culture in recent years and display a moderate risk appetite, one reason for their relatively low exposure to sub-prime/structured products, the report added.
However, certain structural factors weigh on the upside potential of the Saudi banks' ratings.
These include concentrations in lending and deposits, mismatches in the maturity profile of assets and liabilities, limited geographical diversification and pool of experienced human capital, the economy's still limited diversification beyond the hydrocarbon sector and volatility in the country's real and nominal output, and strong loan growth in recent years that has not yet matured or been tested under more adverse conditions," Kypreos noted in the report.-TradeArabia News Service