Cutting reserve requirements will not add liquidity to the Nigerian banking system because it releases no additional foreign currency (FC), says Fitch Ratings; according to Reuters.
Substantial government-related FC deposits are exempt from reserve requirements and have already been withdrawn from the system after the government ordered all public-sector deposits to be moved from commercial banks into the centralised Treasury Single Account (TSA) earlier this month.
Nigeria's Monetary Committee reduced mandatory reserve requirements on all local-currency (LC) deposits to 25% from 31% last week in the hope that this might ease liquidity pressure, stimulate new lending and boost economic growth. This should provide some additional LC liquidity into the banking system but around N1.3 trillion ($6.5 billion) of deposits were sucked out of the banks in September, reflecting transfers to the TSA. Public-sector deposits traditionally account for around 10% of total banking sector deposits. Lower reserve requirements will not offset the tighter FC liquidity at Nigeria's banks.
A currency split of public-sector deposits is not disclosed but in our opinion, FC deposits are substantial, held up by oil-related deposits. The centralising of public-sector and government-related FC deposits at the TSA has made it increasingly difficult for commercial banks to meet customer demand for FC. FC availability was already strained in 2015 due to falling oil revenues, central bank action to defend naira depreciation and heightened negative investor sentiment towards emerging markets.
Warnings throughout the year that JP Morgan intended to remove Nigeria from its Emerging Markets index, which occurred in mid-September, also triggered heavy FC outflows as investors sold Nigerian securities. Viability Ratings assigned to Nigeria's banks, all in the 'b' category, already reflect a wide range of weaknesses, including the increasingly strained FC liquidity position.
Our sector outlook for Nigerian banks remains negative. Key financial metrics reported by Nigerian banks are likely to continue to weaken in the closing months of 2015. Impaired loans have been rising over the past 12 months. We expect them to rise above the central bank's informal 5% of total loans cap but to remain below 10% at year-end. Pressure is mounting on regulatory capital ratios and we expect Tier 1 capital ratios at many banks to fall below 15%, which is low by recent Nigerian standards. Loan growth is slowing under the strain of lower oil prices. Our expectations for loan growth are muted - a nominal 5% increase in 2015, which is low by Nigerian standards - due to the much deteriorated operating environment.