Bangladesh banks have weak cushion against risks

Bangladeshi banks’ strength in terms of capital to losses is the lowest among the major South Asian countries, according to the first-ever Financial Stability Report (FSR) released yesterday.

The capital adequacy ratio (CAR), which sets the minimum cushion of capital a bank must keep to absorb losses and promote stability, was 9.3 percent in Bangladesh at the end of 2010. The CAR of Indian banking industry was 14.6 percent as of end-March 2010, 14 percent in Pakistan and 14.9 percent in Sri Lanka.

“Banks’ CAR must increase from the present level,” SK Sur Chowdhury, executive director of Bangladesh Bank, told reporters at the launch of the report.

The CAR has to go up to 14 percent under Basel-II requirements. The major three South Asian countries have more capacity than the regulatory need under the Basel-II.

The BB released the FSR 2010 yesterday at its office. The FSR has checked the health of the Bangladesh financial system and accordingly, advised the banks and non-banks to enhance capacity to absorb shocks.

The report was based on the data of 2010, but it used stress-tests of 2011 to assess the resilience of the financial system to adverse domestic and global macroeconomic developments.

The FSR observed that the domestic financial system remained stable in 2010 despite an adverse international backdrop. Market participants and stakeholders reposed their confidence in the stability of the domestic financial system and stress testing. The FSR, however, pointed out some weaknesses that need to be addressed.

Though the report found a resilient local financial system supported by congenial macroeconomic environment in 2010, it identified a risk arising from the global economic vulnerabilities and its spillover impacts on the economy.

“The financial sector has to make buffer in the wake of a deteriorating global financial condition. The banks should have a liquidity contingent plan,” Chowdhury said.

He cited an example of cash withdrawal during the Eid festivals. “Can a bank remain liquid if it faces 2 percent more withdrawal than that of normal transactions?” he questioned.

He also asked the banks to be more vigilant on the asset-liability mismatch.

The report found banking sector’s balance sheet recorded a sizeable growth in 2010. Assets and loans were not concentrated among a small number of banks. The provision shortfall was also reduced significantly, it said.

Banking industry’s operating and net profit increased by about 47 percent and 54 percent respectively in 2010 than 2009. The return on assets and equity also increased in line with net profit.

Though the non-performing loan ratio has been on a downward trend, the banks have to pay due attention to bring down the ratio to the minimum level, said the report.

The FSR found no big risk in the equity and currency markets during the period under review. However, the local currency was devalued by nearly 15 percent in 2010.

Islamic banks showed a remarkable growth in 2010. Its asset base grew by 27.35 percent, deposits by 25.69 percent and investments by nearly 30 percent in 2010 than 2009. The CAR of five Islamic banks out of seven was higher than the regulatory requirement of 9 percent.

Non-bank financial institutions have also been growing. The total assets of the NBFIs increased by 30 percent in 2010 compared to 2009. The volume of term financing by the NBFIs rose by more than 61 percent in 2010 than the previous year.

However, the non-performing assets (NPA) of the NBFIs increased by over 8 percent in 2010. But provisions maintained against the NPA showed a surplus over required provisions, said the FSR.

The payment and settlement systems in Bangladesh remained resilient and continued to operate smoothly throughout 2010. There was a remarkable shift from paper-based payments to the electronic form, but cash and cheques remain popular, said the report.

On the capital market, the report blamed lower pace of investment activities, reduced interest rates on deposits and savings certificates and over-crowding for the huge flow of capital in the stockmarket in 2010.

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=215837

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