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Moody’s upgrades Pakistan banking sector outlook from negative to stable

Moody’s upgrades Pakistan banking sector outlook from negative to stable

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Moody's upgrades Pakistan banking sector outlook from negative to stable

 Moody’s Investors Service on Thursday changed its outlook on Pakistan’s banking sector from “negative” to “stable” citing its solid profitability, stable funding and liquidity, which it said “provide an adequate buffer’ to withstand the country’s macroeconomic challenges and political turmoil.

The international rating agency — one of the top three global rating firms — said that the economic and fiscal pressures were easing for the country, as it forecasted that the economy would return to a 2 per cent growth rate in 2024 after subdued activity in 2023. The report also said it expected inflation to fall from 29pc to 23pc.

“Pakistani banks remain highly exposed to the government via large holdings of government securities that amount to around half of total banking assets, which links their credit strength to that of the sovereign,” the global rating agency said.

According to the report, the macroeconomic conditions remained weak while government liquidity risk and external vulnerability were high. It said the recovery from the 2022 floods and “low base effects” will support a modest economic recovery.

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“However, high-interest rates and inflation will continue to curb private-sector spending and investment,” it said, adding that banks were financing the sovereign’s wide fiscal deficits, leaving little space to lend to the real economy “Initiatives to deepen financial inclusion and assistance for key sectors will only partly support credit demand,” it added.

The report said the banking sector’s asset risk was linked to high government securities exposure as government securities accounted for 51pc of Pakistani banks’ total assets and around nine times their equity, the highest levels for Moody’s rated banks globally.

“We expect problem loans to stabilise at around 9pc of gross loans, partly because of the banks’ reluctance to lend in this challenging environment,” it said.

It also said the capital will remain broadly stable as banks’ subdued growth and solid earnings offset dividend payouts.
The reported Tier 1 capital ratio for the rated Pakistani banks was 15.3pc of risk-weighted assets as of September 2023, up from 14.4pc in 2022 and well above the regulatory minimum, it said.

Moody’s capital metric, the tangible common equity to adjusted risk-weighted assets ratio, is a low 5.2pc, reflecting the 150pc risk weighting for government securities in line with the Caa3 sovereign rating, it added.

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The report said that the profitability will gradually decline to normalised, adding that it expected Pakistani banks’ interest revenue to moderate in 2024, with monetary policy beginning to ease as inflation and interest rates gradually recede from 2023 peaks.

“Subdued business and lending activity will keep interest on lending and non-interest income in check. Operating expenses will likely stabilise in line with easing inflation and banks’ cost-control efforts. Persistently elevated tax rates and potentially higher loan-loss provisions will weigh on banks’ bottom-line profitability, with the return on average assets hovering around 3pc,” it said.

The report said that stable funding and liquidity were a strength for the country as deepening financial inclusion and remittances broadened domestic deposit inflows.

“Banks are mainly deposit-funded […] and have very low reliance on more volatile market funding given limited access to international debt markets,” the report said.

“However, the cost of funds is rising moderately as high-interest rates have driven a migration to interest-bearing deposits from non-interest-bearing deposits, which were down to 74pc of total system deposits as at end-2023 from 75.2pc a year earlier,” it said.

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While Moody’s upgraded its outlook on Pakistan’s banking sector, it downgraded its outlook for the banking sector in a number of European countries.

It changed the outlook to negative from stable for the banking sectors of Germany, Britain and France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

“A deteriorating operating environment with low economic growth and high borrowing costs will hit credit growth as well as loan performance in the largest European countries, particularly in the corporate sector,” said Moody’s analyst Effie Tsotsani.

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Yellen pushes for joint G7 response to China industrial overcapacity

Yellen pushes for joint G7 response to China industrial overcapacity

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Yellen pushes for joint G7 response to China industrial overcapacity

 US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that the United States and Europe needed to respond to China’s industrial overcapacity in a “strategic and united way” to keep manufacturers viable on both sides of the Atlantic.

Read more: China solar module exports shift towards Asia, which are up over 100pc for Pakistan

Yellen told reporters during a visit to Frankfurt that G7 finance ministers shared US concerns about Chinese efforts to dominate clean energy industries, but did not need “detailed coordination” on trade actions following the imposition of steep US tariffs on Chinese goods.

“But I do think that the concerns about China’s strategy are shared and all I’m suggesting is that given that many countries share this concern, it’s more forceful to communicate to China as a group,” Yellen said.

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In remarks on the US-European alliance in Frankfurt, Yellen said China’s excess industrial capacity threatened both American and European firms as well as the industrial development of emerging market countries.

Read more: Chinese EV maker BYD welcome to open factory in France: Minister

“China’s industrial policy may seem remote as we sit here in this room, but if we do not respond strategically and in a united way, the viability of businesses in both our countries and around the world could be at risk,” she said.

Last week, the Biden administration announced steep new tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles (EVs), solar products, semiconductors, battery parts, steel and other strategic industries.

Read more: China should hike import tariffs on large cars to 25pc, says research body

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Yellen had warned Chinese officials on a trip to Guangzhou and Beijing in April that the US would not accept their excess production of these goods that would flood global markets with cheap exports.

In remarks later at the TechQuartier technology and finance incubator in Frankfurt, Yellen said Chinese production in these sectors significantly exceeded global demand, threatening the development of clean energy industries around the world.

The Biden administration was taking action to protect US workers and firms from being undercut by “unfair Chinese economic competition”, she said.

Read more: US criticism of Chinese overcapacity rehashes ‘China threat’ rhetoric: Xinhua

She added that Chinese industrial capacity would be a focus of the Group of Seven finance meetings later this week in Stresa, Italy.

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“We want to see healthy green technology sectors, from innovative start-ups to green manufacturing factories, in the United States, Europe, and around the world, not just in China,” Yellen said.

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Yellen, who received an honorary degree from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, said the European Union and other countries were taking similar actions to use their own authorities to investigate potential trade remedies for Chinese EVs and other products.

Yellen also said that it was important for the G7 countries to show that they had a plan to channel substantial aid to Ukraine from some $300 billion in frozen Russian assets.

Read more: With solar industry in crisis, Europe in a bind over Chinese imports

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She said that not every detail of the plan with a “completed term sheet” needed to be worked out by the time of the G7 leaders’ summit in Puglia, Italy, on June 13-15. But the plan needed enough agreement that leaders could seriously consider it.

Earlier, Yellen said the US and European Union should stand together against Russian aggression and Iranian “support for terrorism,” including agreeing on a way to unlock the value of some $300 billion worth of frozen Russian sovereign assets to aid Ukraine.

“That’s why I believe it’s vital and urgent that we collectively find a way forward to unlock the value of Russian sovereign assets immobilized in our jurisdictions for the benefit of Ukraine,” Yellen said. “This will be a key topic of conversation during G7 meetings this week.”

Yellen also is pushing for the G7 finance leaders to agree at their meetings this week on a plan to use the income stream from the frozen Russian sovereign assets to back a larger loan to Ukraine.

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Asia-Pacific real estate assets at ‘high risk’ from climate change: Report

Asia-Pacific real estate assets at ‘high risk’ from climate change: Report

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Asia-Pacific real estate assets at 'high risk' from climate change: Report

Nearly one in ten properties owned by leading real estate investment trusts (REITs) in the Asia-Pacific region may be at “high risk” of damage from climate change, particularly in coastal regions, a report published on Wednesday showed.

REITs, with an estimated global market capitalisation of about $3 trillion, are considered safe havens for long-term investors but damage from climate risks, such as floods and forest fires, could hurt valuations and boost insurance premiums, climate risk consultancy XDI said.

“What we are seeing is that the physical risks to build assets increase over time under climate change, and are particularly more pronounced in scenarios where global warming is allowed to accelerate,” said lead author Philip Tapsall.

Individual companies and communities that stood to be affected need to do more to adapt to the risks, he added. “We still have time to act, so what we are really trying to do is signal the existence of this risk.”

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Read more: Rangelands demise ‘severely underestimated’: UN report

In its report, XDI analysed more than 2,000 property assets valued totally at $142 billion held by the 20 largest REITs in Japan, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

It used global climate models and regional weather data to assess the damage expected as a result of extreme weather.

Properties suffering annual damage of more than 1 per cent of their total replacement value were deemed “high risk”, with nearly one in ten expected to meet such criteria by 2050. XDI identified coastal inundation as the biggest threat in the Asia-Pacific.

Tapsall called for more transparency and disclosure to ensure that companies, their investors and lenders can measure and manage future climate impacts.

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“The worst thing that could happen is that there is a disorderly withdrawal of capital from vulnerable communities, so what we need is a clear articulation of the risk, and from there to think about the response.” 

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More gas tariffs hikes planned as Pakistan eyes another IMF programme

More gas tariffs hikes planned as Pakistan eyes another IMF programme

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More gas tariffs hikes planned as Pakistan eyes another IMF programme

As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan are currently involved in policy-level talks on the next loan programme, the authorities have proposed another round of gas tariff hike for different set of consumers, sources say.

With the aim of controlling the gas circular debt in mind, Pakistan have shared three plans with the Washington-based lender, the sources said, as the IMF – one of the Bretton Woods Institutions established in 1944 – isn’t backing down on its primary demand of reducing budget deficit.

The latest increase in gas tariffs will be applicable from August this year and affect not only domestic consumers but also fertilizer, cement and CNG sectors.

According to the sources, it is proposed that gas tariffs for both protected and non-protected domestic consumers should be increased by Rs100 to Rs400, depending upon their consumption.

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Read more: Pakistan sees 2024-25 inflation at 11.8pc, IMF thinks it will be 12.7pc

However, the government wants to keep the gas tariffs for tandoors unchanged as these serve the working class and other low-income groups.

Earlier, the PML-N government in Punjab reduced the roti prices, forcing the tandoor owners to sell 100 gram roti for Rs15 and fixed the naan [120 grams] price at Rs20 – a move which has been later replicated in other parts of the country too.

The three plans submitted by Pakistan are part of the overall talks revolving around the gas sector circular debt as well as the intended reforms.

Energy reforms for both gas and power sectors have not only been a main IMF demand but also suggested by the World Bank and other international financial institutions (IFIs).

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That’s why the two sides also held discussions on a dividend scheme to reduce the circular debt which is affecting the working of Sui Northern and Sui Southern – the two marketing companies responsible for gas marketing in the country.

Moreover, the sources also said that the two sides had agreed on data sharing with the IMF concerning arrears recovery, tariffs and tariffs at the latest.

Earlier, it was reported in media that the fertilizer companies did not pass on the benefits to the farmers after receiving billions in subsidies, as the IMF has been advocating for targeted subsidies so that the low-income groups are the beneficiates instead of big businesses.

It worth noting that the urea prices have been raised continuously in Pakistan, which adversely impacted the farmers by increasing the cost of production.

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