Thursday, March 4, 2010

Major UAE Banks Have Rengotiated AED15 Billion (US$4.1 Bn) in Loans - Signs of Writeoffs to Come?

The National reports that three of the UAE's largest banks have renegotiated some AED15 billion in loans.  To be clear this is the stock of renegotiated loans as of 31 December 2009.
  1. EmiratesNBD - AED7.8 billion in 2009 on top of an existing AED2.5 billion.
  2. NBAD - AED3.2 billion
  3. First Gulf Bank - AED2.5 billion
Some comments.
  1. It's common practice for a bank to renegotiate a loan with a client if the client cannot fulfill the original terms.  This is often the smartest thing to do.  Court windups are costly - both in terms of time and ultimate recovery.  No more so that in the UAE which has one of the worst insolvency regimes in the region.  The goal of any banker is to get back as much of the contractual amount due as is possible.
  2. Under IFRS loans are included in the "renegotiated" category if a material change has been made that is a concession the Bank would normally not make or terms of the loan have been amended.  So for example if the interest rate has been reduced.  Or if changes have been made in repayment schedules - extension of maturities.   So some changes may not reflect fundamental credit weakness in terms of ultimate repayment but a bit of slack - a lower interest rate, an extra six months for repayment.
  3. That being said, can renegotiations be used to push problems into the future?  Yes.  Do banks sometimes do this?  Yes.   
  4. Looking at NBAD's 2009 financials (Note 4), they have classified roughly AED557 million of the AED3.183 billion of renegotiated loans as "OLEM"  which means weak  or watch credits.  Those monitoring  the health of NBAD would want to keep an eye on the OLEM category which has gone from AED454 million at FYE08 to AED3.3 billion.  "Non Pass" loans were AED3.0 billion at FYE 2008 and AED2.3 billion at FYE 2009.  An improvement not only in amount but as well in allocation among the classifications.
  5. Looking at FGB's financials (Note 32.2), renegotiated loans were AED836 million at FYE08 increasing to AED2.456 billion at FYE 09.  FGB's watch loans increased to AED1.2 billion from AED0.8billion.  There has also been a fairly dramatic rise in the amount of "non pass" loans (= weaker credits) from roughly AED3.5 billion to AED6.3 billion. 
  6. Therefore, I think that when looking for potential future problems, the OLEM or "Watch" category  is probably the best early warning indicator, followed by a close eye on the movement in renegotiated credits.

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