Negative outlook for banks in emerging markets, stable for insurers

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Moderate and uneven economic recoveries amid the coronavirus pandemic as well as political and trade uncertainties pose risks for financial institutions in emerging markets throughout Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2021, Moody’s Investors Service said in a new report.

The outlook for banks is negative, while insurers are more stable, as the lockdown from the pandemic has resulted in one-off gains in profitability, although pressures on capital are increasing.

“The uncertain trajectory of asset quality is among the biggest risks for banks as operating environments remain fragile amid ongoing health concerns,” said Moody’s Managing Director Celina Vansetti-Hutchins.

“Profit growth will be modest because of low interest rates and subdued lending, but lower loan volumes should aid capital. Additionally, banks’ lending and funding shifts in response to flatter yield curve dynamics and low rates will also pressure net interest margins.”

In Asia-Pacific, banks’ rising nonperforming loans and insurers’ volatile investment portfolios are in focus. Capital will moderately fall in emerging Asia over the next two years, and banks in India and Sri Lanka will post larger capital declines without public or private injections.

In the insurance space, China is the most relevant player in emerging Asian markets. Moody’s has a stable outlook on most lines of business given solid capitalization, but rising equity allocations will add to investment income volatility.

In EMEA, operating conditions will be challenging.

In Africa, asset quality, profitability and foreign currency liquidity will remain banks’ key pressure points. Across the CIS, large loan impairments will increase because of the double economic shock of the pandemic and oil price slump.

Pressure on fundamentals will also carry over to CEE banks, but economies contracted more mildly than EU peers and are set for a stronger recovery in 2021.

GCC banks may get a boost from large projects like the Expo and FIFA World Cup, while insurers are vulnerable to intensifying pricing competition. Turkish banks’ creditworthiness will remain weak and under pressure.

In Latin America, asset risks loom large. Loan growth will be modest, particularly in Mexico, given an uneven economic recovery and ongoing health risks. High reserve buffers in Brazil and Colombia will protect against uncertainties in asset risk and market volatility, but low rates will hurt margins. Ample liquidity and improving capital will support new lending and overall creditworthiness.

Moody’s notes that weak medium-term economic growth will limit Latin American insurers’ premium growth, which could lead to softer underwriting practices for certain segments participating in highly competitive markets.