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Interest rate capping hits Kenyan banks’ 2016 earnings

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenyan banks posted flat or reduced earnings in 2016 following interest rate caps introduced last September.

At least four banks have announced their earnings in the last few days, with their results highlighting how the fixing of interest rates has affected the financial institutions.

Kenya capped commercial banks’ lending rates last November at 4 percent above the Central Bank Rate (CBR), which currently stands at 10 percent and further set a minimum interest rate for deposits in interest-earning accounts.

Before the law, lending charges stood at between 19 percent and 27 percent, with proponents of capping then noting that banks were exploiting their customers through their high rates to make billions of dollars in profits.

According to the Central Bank, the banking sector profit in 2015 stood at 1.3 billion U.S. dollars, mainly driven by interest earnings from customers.

However, total commercial banks’ earnings has fallen significantly in 2016 if results of commercial banks released in the last few days are indicative.

Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), Barclays Bank, NIC Bank and Stanbic are among banks that have announced their results out of the 40 in the east African nation.

KCB, the country’s largest bank by assets, posted a flat net profit of 191 million dollars in its 2016 results.

On the other hand, NIC Bank recorded a 3.3 percent decline in earnings, driven by a 35.8 percent growth in total operating expenses which outpaced a 17.5 percent growth in total operating revenue.

Similarly, Barclays Bank and Stanbic Bank recorded 12.6 percent and 9.9 percent reduction in earnings.

For KCB, besides rate capping, regional expansion strategy eroded shareholders value as the bank was affected by the ongoing political instability in South Sudan, coupled with the devaluation of the country’s pound and hyper-inflationary effects, which resulted in the bank subsidiary reporting a net monetary loss.

“Of the banks that have released their financial results of 2016, all have recorded a decline in core earnings per share, with the average decline across the banking sector put at 5.4 percent, owing to the tough operating environment as a result of the interest rate caps and higher loan loss provision,” Cytonn, a Nairobi-based investment firm, noted in an analysis Monday.

But it is not all gloom for the banks as interest capping has led to growth in loan advances and deposits.

KCB, for instance, had its loans and advances grow by 11.5 percent to 3.74 billion dollars from 336 million dollars, while customer deposits grew by 5.6 percent to 4.4 billion dollars from 4.12 billion dollars leading to an increase in the loan to deposit ratio to 86.1 percent from 81.5 percent in 2015.

On the other hand, NIC Bank grew it loan book by 1.3 percent, Stanbic by 3.4 percent and Barclays Bank by 15.9 percent.

“This will be the year of reckoning for banks if their current lobbying to repeal the law on capping interest rates would not be successful. Banks will be hit harder by the low interest rates as this would be the first time they would fully operate in the controlled environment,” said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi.

He added that he expected banks to continue cost reduction measures that include adoption of digital strategies for both loan disbursement and deposit mobilization and retrenchment of staff.



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