Nigeria’s Banking Sector Battles a Surge in Bad Loans Amid Economic Uncertainty
Amidst a challenging economic landscape, Nigeria’s banking sector is grappling with a concerning surge in non-performing loans (NPLs). Four major banks have collectively reported NPLs totaling N478 billion ($1.1 billion) in the first half of 2023. This represents a significant 16 percent increase compared to the figures reported for the entire year of 2022.
The Four Banks Facing NPL Challenges:
- FBN Holdings Plc: This financial giant, with a 4.3 percent NPL ratio and a loan portfolio of N5.26 trillion, reported N226.24 billion in NPLs during H1 2023, a notable rise from the N204.29 billion recorded in 2022.
- Guaranty Trust Bank Holding Plc (GTCO): GTCO declared N115.29 billion in NPLs during H1 2023, compared to N102.37 billion reported for the entire 2022 fiscal year.
- Fidelity Bank Plc: Fidelity Bank reported N84.73 billion in bad loans during H1 2023, a substantial increase from the N61.37 billion recorded earlier.
- FCMB Group Plc: The FCMB Group noted N52.66 billion in NPLs during H1 2023, up from N45.01 billion in 2022.
Root Causes of the NPL Surge:
The surge in NPLs can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the economic downturn, skyrocketing building material costs, and a challenging business environment. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and currency exchange rate fluctuations have also contributed to this alarming trend.
Banks’ Response to NPLs:
Nigerian banks have been taking proactive measures to address non-performing loans. They continue to write off these loans and, in some cases, debit the accounts of defaulting borrowers to reduce the burden of NPLs. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced the Global Standing Instruction (GSI) guideline in 2020, allowing banks to recover outstanding principal and interest from any account held by a debtor across all financial institutions in Nigeria.
Maintaining Financial Stability:
Despite the growing NPLs, the CBN reports that the banks maintain sound financial stability. While the capital adequacy ratio (CAR) decreased slightly to 11.2 percent in 2023 from 14.1 percent, it remains above the prudential requirement of 10.0 percent. Furthermore, the liquidity ratio (LR) has notably increased from 42.6 percent in June 2022 to 48.4 percent in June 2023, surpassing the regulatory minimum of 30.0 percent.
The banking sector faces ongoing challenges as it navigates the complexities of managing NPLs and ensuring financial stability amidst economic uncertainties and market volatility.