The local banks have just released their financial results for the financial year 2016. All the three banks suffered a decrease in profit for FY 2016 compare with FY 2015. OCBC seemed to have it worst, while UOB did comparatively well. Before the results were released, it was widely expected that the banks would suffer a decrease in profit in view of the flagging economy, and most importantly their exposure to the offshore and marine industries that had turned sharply for the worst following the sharp decline in the crude oil price last year. For almost whole of last year 2016, we have seen several major defaults and major loan re-structuring exercises in this sector. Surely, in such a scenario, it would be a miracle if the banks can go through the year unscathed.
One interesting thing to note, however, is the impairment charges that the banks set aside in FY 2016. OCBC and DBS increased the impairment charges by 48.8% and 93.0% respectively, while UOB decreased it by 11.6%. One deduction, I can make is that UOB felt that it had already accounted for all the problem loans, and there was no longer a need to make further provisions. Meanwhile, OCBC and DBS were still making provisions for loans that might deteriorate in time to come. One possibility is that they are pre-empting the possibility of Ezra that can go in the path of Swiber or Swissco. Due to this significant impairment charge, the EPS of OCBC and DBS were marked down by 13.7% and 3.0%. The drop in the EPS of UOB is mainly due to the higher operating costs for the year, and is a different nature from the other two.
For the net interest margin (NIM), the fate is entirely different for all the three banks. OCBC’s NIM remains unchanged at 1.67%, UOB decreased from 1.77% to 1.71%, while DBS increased from 1.77% to an uninspiring 1.80%.
On the whole, the business risk for the banking sector has increased. Asset qualities were decreasing, and decreasing at a very fast rate. In the meantime, the share price for the banks has been on the uptrend for several months. All this translate to the fact that the ‘margin of safety’ continues to get thinner as the days passed.
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Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.