July 19, 2012 (LBO) – RAM Ratings has confirmed an ‘Aa+’ rating of Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank of Ceylon with a stable outlook. “The ratings are premised on the Groupâ€™s strong market position as Sri Lankaâ€™s largest privately owned licensed commercial bank and third-largest overall..,” the rating agency said in a statement.
“The ratings also reflect COMBâ€™s strong franchise and healthy financial performance, funding and liquidity, as well as good capitalization levels.”
RAM Ratings Lanka reaffirms Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLCâ€™s
RAM Ratings Lanka has reaffirmed Commercial Bank Of Ceylon PLCâ€™s (â€œCOMBâ€ or â€œthe
Groupâ€) long- and short-term financial institution ratings at AA+ and P1, respectively;
the long-term rating has a stable outlook.
The ratings are premised on the Groupâ€™s
strong market position as Sri Lankaâ€™s largest privately owned licensed commercial bank
(â€œLCBâ€) and third-largest overall LCB. The ratings also reflect COMBâ€™s strong franchise
and healthy financial performance, funding and liquidity, as well as good capitalisation
Incorporated in 1969, COMB accounted for 12.34% of the LCB industryâ€™s asset base as
at end-December 2011. It ranked behind 2 state-owned banks, which took up 41.92%
of the industryâ€™s total assets. Given its size, COMB is also deemed one of the countryâ€™s 5
systematically important financial institutions by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (â€œCBSLâ€).
Moreover, the government has an 18.82% direct stake in COMB; this enhances the
likelihood of state support if needed.
COMBâ€™s asset quality is considered adequate in comparison to its peers. While its gross
non-performing-loan (â€œNPLâ€) ratio is in line with those of its similarly rated peers, the
Groupâ€™s asset quality is weighed down by its weaker gross NPL coverage levels and,
relatively unseasoned loan portfolio amid strong growth in 2011.
The Groupâ€™s credit
assets expanded 26.15% y-o-y to LKR 287.80 billion as at end-fiscal 2011, i.e. faster
than the previous yearâ€™s 24.85% but slower than the industryâ€™s 31%. On the back of
loan expansion, COMBâ€™s gross NPL ratio had improved to 3.43% as at the end of FYE 31
December 2011 (â€œend-FY Dec 2011â€) (end-FY Dec 2010: 4.21%). By end-March 2012,
the ratio remained relatively stable at 3.57%. Meanwhile, its gross NPL coverage ratio
had also remained relatively stable at 51.97% as at end- FY Dec 2011 (end-FY Dec
2010: 52.26%); albeit weaker than similar-rated peers.
In the meantime, the Groupâ€™s performance is deemed healthy; although its net interest
margin (â€œNIMâ€) of 4.43% last year was lower than most of its peersâ€™ (FY Dec 2010:
4.73%), easing further to 4.42% in 1Q FY Dec 2012, its performance is supported by its
operational cost efficiencies achieved through its low-cost delivery channels and
economies of scale.
This is reflected in its cost-to-income ratio of 54.03% as at end-FY
Dec 2011, which is better than its peersâ€™; the ratio improved further to 45.87% in 1Q FY
Dec 2012, backed by a large quantum of foreign-exchange gains, following the sharp
depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar; these gains are expected to moderate to
historical levels going forward. In line with rising business volumes and better cost
management, its pre-tax profit increased 19.01% y-o-y to LKR 11.07 billion in FY Dec
2011, translating into a healthier return on assets ratio (â€ROAâ€) of 2.73% (end-FY Dec
Elsewhere, COMBâ€™s funding position is deemed healthy. Its funding mix is dominated by
deposits, backed by its strong franchise and branch network, as reflected by its ability to
attract deposits despite the prevalent low interest rate environment in 2011. COMBâ€™s
deposits accelerated faster than the industryâ€™s pace last year, expanding 22.58% y-o-y
Sri Lankato LKR 318.40 billion (industry: 20.78%).
On a related note, its loans-to-deposits (â€œLDâ€)
ratio was elevated to 86.76% as at end-FY Dec 2011, albeit conservative relative to its
peersâ€™ (end-FY Dec 2010: 83.47%). The Groupâ€™s liquidity is also deemed healthy;
COMBâ€™s statutory liquid-asset ratio clocked in at 26.21% (end-FY Dec 2010: 29.74%),
before easing slightly to 26% as of end-March 2012 on the back of loan growth, but still
in line with most of its peersâ€™.
Furthermore, COMBâ€™s capitalisation levels are deemed good; despite loan expansion, its
tier-1 and overall risk-weighted capital-adequacy ratios (â€œRWCARsâ€) came up to 12.11%
and 13.01%, respectively, as at end-FY Dec 2011 – in line with its peersâ€™.
Its capitalisation levels had strengthened following an LKR 4.86 billion rights issue last year.
As at end-March 2012, the ratios had eased to a respective 11.44% and 12.73% due to
loan expansion. Going forward, RAM Ratings Lanka expects COMBâ€™s RWCAR to dip to
just below 12% in line with the Groupâ€™s planned expansion. Meanwhile, its ratio on net
NPLs to shareholdersâ€™ funds stood at 13.10% as at end-FY Dec 2011 (end-FY Dec 2010:
18.44%) – among the industryâ€™s best.