Tuesday, April 06, 2010

What lending rate should we be seeing from Kenyan banks?

The last 6 months have seen wailing pleas from CBK governors and media types calling for lower bank loan rates. Much have of it has been emotive/subjective.

Although there are many factors that are considered when deciding on the the correct loan rate, 3 are key. Cost of borrowing; return on capital; loan quality.
  1. Cost of borrowing: Quite simply, a bank is gets its money from 3 sources in order of quantity; depositors, lenders and shareholders. The lenders will typically charge some internationally priced rate and shareholders are covered below. If you look at a typical Kenyan bank's balance sheet, you'll note that the largest two single items are deposits and loans. While we are can talk about the desirable type of depositor (i.e. raia like you and me who are seen as far more stickier than corporate or other financial entities), the key consideration here is the rate depositors require before they can deposit with a typical Kenyan bank. That is, the rate they lend to the bank. Per CBK, the current average deposit rate is 4.89%; typical savings rate is much lower at 1.81% and finally the interbank rate is 2.17% (its unusual for the interbank rate to be so much lower than the CBK rate in itself a sign of some dysfunctional issues). So Kenyan banks are paying 489 basis points for deposits. They are then not going to charge bank loans at anything less than 4.89% and possibly more if their borrowing from abroad (i) attracted higher interest rates and (ii) is a significant portion of their borrowing. We've overlooked the maturity mismatch issue i.e. the bank is borrowing short (you as a depositor can withdraw your funds at any time) but lending long-term (a bank can't take back its loan tomorrow). So lets say 5.5% to breakeven against cost of borrowing. But is this real cost of borrowing? What about staff costs, administration costs (IT, branches) et al. I'd say add 50bps. Thus arrive at 6%.
  2. Return on capital: A bank has many stakeholders, but the shareholder is the key one as they can guarantee continuity from a regulatory and financial perspective. The bank's lending rate must therefore reflect the shareholder's desired rate of return on his/er capital to keep their capital with the bank. Straightaway, you'll note that the shareholder wants the regular income in form of dividend and eventually in form of capital gains. A potential shareholder (note not a speculator), will want to keep his/er capital with a bank share for say 2 to 3 years. He/she doesn't know what may happen in those 2/3 years i.e. the risk is high, but at the end of it they'll want a return on the principal and reward in form of gains or income for keeping the cash there. The alternative would be to stick the same cash in a t-bill and earn minimum 8.75% per year with guaranteed principal protection. The bank has to deliver an annual income of no less than 8.75%, guarantee the shareholder's principal by ensuring growth in shareprice and reward the shareholder for sleepless nights. Lets say we are now at 10%.
  3. Loan quality: In Kenya, a bank historically relied on quality of collateral in form of a clean title deed. Many banks have learned painfully that (a) title deed may not be legit (b) may not mean much if there has to be recourse to the courts where you are asked to form an orderly queue at case number 900,001. Other forms of collateral such as shares; guarantors are costly to enforce. Secondily, the other way you judge the quality of your loan book is to have borrowers that don't already have 5 other loans. In Kenya, its not possible to tell this because credit scoring started this year and of course banks didn't share customer information. The risk of lending and guaranteeing that the loan will not go bad has to be rewarded. Add another 300bps to the 10%. Therefore 13% borrowing rate.


Samora said...

Seems too arbitrary for my liking. I mean how you came up with 13%. Secondly when you discuss about shareholders, don't you think that Kenyan banks are run principally by their management rather than the shareholders. Kind of like corporate America where the board just meets for niceties rather than to do real discussions

MainaT said...

Samora-please help me by pointing out which of the 3 building blocks is arbitrary.

Interestingly, a CBK-backed research paper on collateral drew almost similar conclusions to my piece. http://www.centralbank.go.ke/downloads/publications/General/Cost%20of%20Collateral%20Study.pdf

Samora said...

It's not the 3 building blocks that are arbitrary, the coming up with 13% was arbitrary. For me this is mainly due to the fact that the risk free rate of cash is so sporadic that it is a tough task to come up with a sound interest rate band let alone a single rate.

MainaT said...

Samora-if the risk-free rate of return as per the 365-day t-bill is 8.75%, whaty in your opinion should be the return for a bank with limited ability to enforce collateral liquidation and facing a lengthy=costly legal be looking for when lending.