Margin pressure expected to ease and continued loan growth with stable asset quality will be main factors

Banks to maintain earnings potential this year: Analysts

PETALING JAYA: Analysts believe that the banking sector will be able to maintain its earnings potential this year, as margin pressure is expected to ease and continued loans growth with stable asset quality.

MIDF Research said while the industry’s loans growth moderated to 5.6% year-on-year (y-o-y) as at December 2018 due to moderation in business loans and loans for the purchase of residential properties, the growth was still slightly above its expectations.

“As for CY19, we expect a moderation in loans growth to 4.7% y-o-y due to the high base effect. We also believe that deposits growth will moderate to 5.3% y-o-y due to lower growth in fixed deposits growth this year,” the research house said in a note.

“This also means that there will be accretion in value for banks’ book value. Hence, we maintain our ‘positive’ view on the sector,” it added.

Overall, MIDF Research said it is cautiously optimistic of the banking sector continuing its solid performance in 2019.

Given the current market conditions, the research house said its top picks for the sector are Maybank, CIMB and Public Bank.

In a separate note, AmBank Research said it expects that the foreign fund inflows into emerging markets would benefit the share prices of the liquid banking stocks as the US Fed rate hike is tapering off.

Therefore, the research house said it maintained its “overweight” stance for the sector with “buy” calls on RHB Bank, Public Bank, Alliance Bank, BIMB Holdings, Maybank as well as MBSB. Its tops picks include Maybank, Public and RHB Bank.

AmBank Research noted that Maybank’s earnings are well diversified and the bank is still recording positive JAWs (a technical term that denotes income growth exceeding that of expenses) with growth in total income outpacing expenses.

It added that Maybank’s net interest margins could also improve further ahead with the lowering of its funding cost as the group releases the excess liquidity built-up in the first half of financial year 2018 (1HFY18).

“Meanwhile, dividend yield for the stock continues to be attractive relative to peers with its high payout ratio while potentially offering investors higher returns with the reinvestment of their dividends into additional shares under the DRS (dividend reinvestment scheme),” it added.