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PETALING JAYA: The local banking sector is projected to post an improved core net profit (CNP) of between RM7.1bil and RM7.5bil in the second quarter of 2022 (1Q22), compared with RM7.05bil in 1Q22, driven by higher net interest margins (NIM) and lower loan loss provisions (LLP).

CGS-CIMB Research expects the sector to benefit from the upcycle in the overnight policy rate (OPR) in 2Q22, supported by improved earnings from AMMB Holdings Bhd (AMMB) and Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd (ABMB) as they cease to incur Cukai Makmur during the quarter.

“AMMB and ABMB cease to incur Cukai Makmur taxation in 2Q22. With this, we expect banks’ CNP growth to resume to between 3% and 9% year-on-year (y-o-y) in 2Q22 and sustain a continuous trend of yearly earnings recovery in 2022,” the research house said in a report.

Notwithstanding the stalled earnings growth in 1Q22, CGS-CIMB Research remains “overweight” on the sector and expects it to enjoy a projected CNP growth of 4% in 2022.

Bank Negara raised the OPR by 25 basis points (bps) on May 11, which would help lift NIM of banks after the sector’s impressive double-digit y-o-y growth trend in CNP of 25% to 45% for four consecutive quarters (from 1Q21 to 4Q21) was broken in 1Q22 when the sector’s CNP inched down by 0.2% y-o-y.

CGS-CIMB Research expects another two OPR hikes of 25 bps each by the central bank in the second half of the year.

The sector’s earnings drag in 1Q22 was due to the additional Cukai Makmur tax impact and a 20.2% y-o-y slump in non-interest income due to weaker investment income.

The positive take in 1Q22 was the 62.1% y-o-y plunge in LLP, due to lower management overly provided by the sector.

The sector’s net interest income rose by a healthy 5.6% y-o-y in 1Q22 versus 6.9% y-o-y growth in 4Q21 as loans grew by 4.6% yoy at end-Mar 22 and net interest margins remained stable.

CGS-CIMB Research expects the sector’s earnings catalysts in 2022 would be a 15.2% drop in LLP and a healthy 7.8% growth in net interest income, lifted by OPR hikes.

“On the flip side, we estimate the Cukai Makmur taxation would lower banks’ calendar year 2022 CNP by some 7%. Excluding Cukai Makmur taxation, banks’ CNP growth would be higher at an estimated 11% in 2022,” the research house noted.

CGS-CIMB Research added that credit risks for the sector from Covid-19 have been subsiding since the re-opening of the domestic economy.

The research house however said that there could be new risks emerging in the form of rising inflation and interest rates, which could negatively impact loan growth and asset quality.

CGS-CIMB Research is also projecting loan growth to soften from 5% y-o-y at end-April 22 to between 4% and 5% in 2022. The research house is forecasting a rise in the industry’s gross impaired loan ratio from 1.5% as at end-December 2021 to between 1.8% and 2% as at end-December 2022.