The outlook for Nigerian banks’ credit fundamentals has stabilised since the initial economic shock from the Covid-19, Fitch Ratings has said.
In a new report released yesterday, the agency said that Nigerian lenders’ “profitability and capitalisation have held up and assetquality deterioration is contained, at least for now,” adding, however, that “all Nigerian banks’ ratings are in the highly speculative ‘B’ category, constrained by the weak operating environment and Nigeria’s ‘B’/ Stable sovereign rating.”
The credit rating agency said it removed most Nigerian bank ratings from “Rating Watch Negative” placed at the onset of the crisis, by October 2020, an action, it said, “reflected our view that near-term risks to banks were receding as uncertainty surrounding the extent of the economic fallout began to ease.”
It noted that yields on Nigerian bank Eurobonds have been falling since the global market sell-off in March and April 2020, because of the banks’ “reasonably stable credit fundamentals and their fairly resilient performance through the pandemic.”
Specifically, it stated: “Two Nigerian banks have issued five-year senior unsecured bonds on the Eurobond market in recent months.
In November 2020, First Bank of Nigeria (B-/Negative) issued $350 million with a coupon of 8.625 per cent. In February 2021, Ecobank Nigeria (B-/ Stable) issued $300 million with a 7.125 per cent coupon – the lowest for a five-year issuance by a Nigerian bank since 2013.
“Both issuances were significantly oversubscribed – a reflection of investor appetite for the yields available on bank debt in emerging and frontier markets, and the scarcity of issuance from the region. Strong investor demand is likely to persist due to favourable global financing conditions, supported by accommodative monetary policy in developed markets even though US Treasury yields are rising.
“We expect more Nigerian banks to tap the Eurobond market in 2021-2022 as local-currency borrowing costs increase due to higher policy rates to counter inflation and exchange-rate pressures