Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Ratings agency S&P Global Ratings downgraded the credit ratings of three of the four largest banking groups and their subsidiaries on Wednesday night, following similar action on government debt last week when it junked local currency debt.

Nedbank and FirstRand Bank scored local and foreign currency ratings of BB, in line with the government (Barclays Africa and subsidiary Absa has national scale ratings of zaBBB+ and zaAA-). But FirstRand Bank’s five-year R1.5m note programme due in 2022 and its Aldermore acquisition drew special attention, attracting a weak rating of B+ and a dimmer view of its lower stand-alone credit profile.

"We lowered the ratings on FirstRand Bank in line with the sovereign foreign currency ratings," said S&P.

"We have also revised down the bank’s [stand-alone credit profile] … because of the higher risk weightings in our capital model, caused by the weaker sovereign ratings and the anticipated impact of the pending acquisition of Aldermore."

FirstRand offered around R20bn for UK bank Aldermore early in November.

Deon Raju, Barclays Africa’s head of treasury, said only 4% of Absa’s deposits were sourced from foreigners. S&P therefore rated its rand-denominated obligations. Debt comprised 15% of its funding.

"When the sovereign downgrades, it will generally translate into higher long-term interest rates in a country," said Raju. "This does impact the cost of capital and cost of funding for banks in the medium to long term," he said.

At Nedbank, debt comprised 7% of its total funding base, and was held by asset managers and life insurers.

"We do not expect a material change in the cost of domestic debt ... although we may experience some price pressure in the capital markets that may spill over into the [financial institution] markets over time," said Mike Davis, Nedbank’s group managing executive for balance sheet management.

maakem@bdfm.co.za

Please sign in or register to comment.