2024 APAC Financials Outlook

Executive Summary

  • In our 2024 Financials outlook, we mainly review the banks under our coverage; the insurance and NBFI sectors were largely covered in sector snapshots that we released in early December.
  • We provide a country-based outlook, supply update and our preferred trades list across the capital structure.
  • We expect net income to improve in 2024 for the banks under our coverage.
  • We expect US rates to start getting cut at the end of 1Q24; we anticipate APAC central banks will mostly follow in 2H24.
  • Peak NIMs have already been hit in most markets; we expect them to be marginally higher in Japan; there will be a bit of upward trajectory followed by a move down in HK, Thailand, and Philippines 1st Tier banks; NIMs will be range bound in Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines 2nd Tier banks, and will be lower in China, Malaysia, India, and Australia.
  • Loan growth is market dependent; we expect low single-digit growth amongst the APAC DM banks (SG, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia), as well as in Thailand and Malaysia, and high-single to low double-digit loan growth in China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • Fee income should improve; credit card, wealth management, and bancassurance should be better in 2024, and capital markets and IB too in the second half of the year.
  • Liquidity levels are adequate, partially due to lower deposit competition stemming from lower loan growth in some jurisdictions; local bond market liquidity has also held up well so far but we may see strains in case interest rates don’t get cut as we anticipate; access to wholesale market liquidity is comfortable for banks but has reduced in some jurisdictions for lower rated corporates as investors do not need to go down the credit spectrum to get yield.
  • CET1 ratios are strong, other than amongst the non-Merchant Chinese joint stock banks; lower margins accompanied by strong loan growth however is also leading a reduction in the CET1 ratios of the big 5 banks and China Merchants.
  • Asset quality is under control with flat to lower credit costs across jurisdictions; these may be higher in India and Malaysia due to the normalization of credit costs following a period of good recoveries. We had anticipated an increase in Special Mention Loans in 4Q23/1Q24 which seems less likely; in general low unemployment rates and reasonable economic growth have helped credit costs, though we may see some precautionary provisions coming through in 2H24 if interest rates continue to remain high.

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Supply Considerations

We have expanded on the sector snapshot supply considerations to include Australia and Japan expected supply.

We see ~$48 bn of bonds (with a minimum issue size of $150 mn) that are callable or maturing in 2024 among the Asia ex-Japan (and ex-Australia) banks, of which a chunky $27 bn is from China. This excludes Japan and Australia which combined make up another $50 bn -$30 bn of Japanese TLAC supply ($6-8 bn each from Mizuho and SMFG, $10 bn from MUFG and $2-3 bn from Nomura) and $2-5 bn of senior bond issuance each from the Aussie majors and Macquarie. In senior paper, we expect State Bank of India, Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank and the South Korean banks to refinance their maturing $ bonds next year, while Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of the Philippine Islands, RCBC, and Bank Mandiri may turn to the loan market/internal resources to refinance their $ bonds. For the Chinese banks, the wildcard remains $ TLAC issuance from the Big 5 – cost considerations imply as much as feasible will be issued onshore, and we anticipate it can be absorbed by the domestic market.

In capital instruments, we expect the HK banks to refinance their $ Tier 2s given the absence of a domestic HKD market. There are a fair number of sizable bullet Tier 2s maturing in 2024, including a $3 bn issue from BCHINA (Nov-24) and $1 bn issues from WOORIB (Apr-24) and OCBCSP (Jun-24), as well as a $1.85 bn 10NC5 issue from CCB that turns callable (Feb-24). It is unclear whether the Chinese Tier 2 bonds will be refinanced in the $ market, given the cheaper levels onshore. We expect OCBC and UOB to issue callable Tier 2 to replace their bullet and callable issues respectively, and likely WOORIB too. We expect each of the Aussie majors and Macquarie to issue a single benchmark $ Tier 2, typically $1.25 bn in size.

We expect $ AT1 supply to be more limited – BNKEA (Sep-24) and CIMWLB (Jan-24) can call their AT1s without refinancing them given their comfortable Tier 1 ratios, while TMBTB (Dec-24) and DBS (Jan-25) have already flagged that they will not return to the $ AT1 market next year. We expect Guangzhou Rural Commercial Bank (Jun-24) to refinance its AT1 in the domestic market as well. AT1s from Kookmin Bank and Woori Bank will probably go down the route that Shinhan FG took this year – refinance the AT1 in KRW but issue a senior bond in the $ market to roll over the $ liquidity after calling their $ AT1. SMFG and Mizuho issue the odd $ Tier 2, and may also be tempted to follow MUFG into the $ AT1 market as and when yields go lower still.

Amongst the NBFIs, we expect BOCAVI, SMBCAC, PFC and REC to access the $ markets, the former two for ongoing funding requirements, while the latter two have maturities. PFC has two bonds maturing – $300mn in June and $400 mn in September – while REC also has two bonds maturing during the year, $650 mn in July and $500 mn in December. We may also see the CCAMCL, HRINTH and ORIEAS in the market as well, given the tightening in their spreads and upcoming maturities.

Several insurance companies have bonds maturing in 2024. PAOH has a $300 mn bond due and is expected to return to the dollar market for refinancing once Ping An Real Estate’s issues stabilise. FWD, with $2.775 bn of callable bonds, is expected to refinance its $900 mn subordinated bond, having gone down the private placement route to refinance its $325 mn senior bond issuance. Japanese Nippon Life and Dai-ichi Life have $3.25 bn that is callable, with Nippon likely to come to market in 2024, but Dai-ichi’s dollar refinancing is uncertain. In Australia, QBE could refinance its $700 mn NC 12/24 subordinated bond in USD to maintain investor interest in its dollar bond curve; its previous $ issuance was refinanced in AUD.

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