Fitch Affirms GTBank at ‘B+’ With Negative Outlook
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Guaranty Trust Bank Plc’s (GTB) Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) has been affirmed at ‘B+’ with Negative Outlook by Fitch Ratings.
In a statement issued on Wednesday in London, Fitch Ratings noted that all other ratings of GTB have also been affirmed.
It noted that the bank’s IDRs are driven by the bank’s intrinsic creditworthiness as defined by its Viability Rating (VR). GTB’s VR is constrained by the Nigerian sovereign rating (B+/Negative) and the Negative Outlook on the Long-Term IDR mirrors that on the sovereign rating.
GTB’s VR also considers solid financial metrics that compare well with other large Nigerian banks. Earnings metrics are especially strong and we consider GTB to be the most profitable bank in the sector, consistently achieving an operating return on average assets of at least 5% annually. Strong profitability reflects strong margins and a structurally lower cost base than peers. Non-interest expense as percentage of average assets is consistently below 4%, with most peers touching 5% or higher.
Strong earnings support capitalisation. GTB’s Fitch Core Capital (FCC) ratio of 26.7% is extremely high, although this considers capitalisation of interim earnings without the payment of a year end-dividend. Nevertheless, we expect GTB’s FCC ratio to remain well above 20% following the distribution of dividends. Regulatory capital is also sound with a bank-solo Tier 1 ratio of 22.9%. We consider both foreign and local currency liquidity to be sound.
Asset quality metrics are in line with peers, with a ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) to gross loans of 3.9% at end-September 2017. NPLs have gradually ticked up as borrowers have faced escalating challenges in Nigeria. However, NPLs have remained well contained. Restructuring of the loan book is common, but not as widespread as we have seen in many other banks, at around 10% of gross loans, while past due but not impaired loans are minimal.
GTB’s National Ratings are a reflection of its relative creditworthiness to the best credits in Nigeria. GTB’s National Ratings consider stronger financial metrics than almost all peers.
The long- and short-term ratings on GTB Finance B.V.’s senior unsecured programme have been affirmed at ‘B+’. The long-term rating of senior debt issued by GTB has also been affirmed at ‘B+’ with a Recovery Rating of ‘RR4’ indicating average recovery prospects.
SUPPORT RATING AND SUPPORT RATING FLOOR
Fitch believes that sovereign support to Nigerian banks cannot be relied on given Nigeria’s weak ability to provide support, particularly in foreign currency. In addition, there are no clear messages from the authorities regarding their willingness to support the banking system. Therefore, the Support Rating Floor of all Nigerian banks is ‘No Floor’ and all Support Ratings are ‘5’. This reflects our view that senior creditors cannot rely on receiving full and timely extraordinary support from the Nigerian sovereign if any of the banks become non-viable.
GTB’s IDRs are sensitive to a rating action on its VR. GTB’s VR is sensitive to a material deterioration in asset quality, which may result from restructured loans in the oil sector not performing under the restructured terms. An upgrade of the bank’s IDRs would require a sovereign upgrade as GTB’s ratings are capped at ‘B+’. However, this is unlikely given the Negative Outlook on the Long-term IDRs of GTB and the Nigerian sovereign.
GTB’s National Ratings are sensitive to a change in its creditworthiness relative to other Nigerian banks.
The long- and short-term ratings on GTB Finance B.V.’s senior unsecured programme and the long-term rating on senior unsecured debt issued by GTB are sensitive to any change in GTB’s IDRs.
SUPPORT RATING AND SUPPORT RATING FLOOR
The SR is potentially sensitive to any change in assumptions around the propensity or ability of the sovereign to provide timely support to the bank.
The rating actions are as follows:
Guaranty Trust Bank Plc
Long-Term IDR affirmed at ‘B+’; Outlook Negative
Short-Term IDR affirmed at ‘B’
Viability Rating affirmed at ‘b+’
Support Rating affirmed at ‘5’
Support Rating Floor affirmed at ‘No Floor’
National Long-Term Rating affirmed at ‘AA-(nga)’
National Short-Term Rating affirmed at ‘F1+(nga)’
Senior unsecured long-term rating affirmed at ‘B+’/’RR4’
Senior unsecured programme long- and short-term ratings of GTB Finance B.V. affirmed at ‘B+/B’/’RR4’