Fitch, the international credit rating agency, has affirmed Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited’s (SBU) Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) – in a layman’s language its credit profile - at ‘B+’, with ‘AAA’ being the highest possible rating while ‘D’ is the lowest.
Anne Juuko, the Stanbic bank chief executive officer said: “We welcome the positive rating by Fitch which speaks to the stability of our business and ability to support Uganda’s economic growth in a challenging operating environment.”
SBU is Uganda’s largest bank, accounting for 22 per cent of the banking sector’s assets as at the end of November 2021. Its leading domestic franchise is underpinned by a strong corporate and investment banking (CIB) business, relationships with the leading corporate companies operating in Uganda and other benefits derived from being part of the Standard Bank Group (SBG), which is Africa’s biggest lender by assets, the company said in a statement.
Fitch regularly generates IDRs for a range of business sectors. An ‘issuer’ may be a financial or nonfinancial corporation, a sovereign company or an insurance company. A ‘default rating’ is the measure of an institution’s credit risk. Risk is defined by a company’s threat of becoming defunct or entering into bankruptcy, administration, receivership, liquidation or other formal winding-up procedures.
Fitch relies on independent auditors and other experts to produce IDRs. According to Fitch, SBU’s national ratings reflect its creditworthiness relative to other issuers in Uganda. SBU’s ‘AAA (uga)’ national long-term rating is the highest possible on Uganda’s national scale and considers potential support available from SBG. SBU’s long-term IDR is one notch below that of SBG, reflecting SBU’s strategically important role in the group’s regional operations.
Fitch states that SBU’s regulatory capital ratios have healthy buffers above the new minimum requirements. ‘The Stable outlook reflects our view that SBU’s creditworthiness compared to other domestic issuers is unlikely to change over a one to two-year period. SBU’s profitability is expected to further recover in 2022, resulting from a likely rise in Uganda’s interest rates and stronger loan growth.’
However, Fitch cautions that this projection could be partially offset by a rise in write-offs of bad loans and the expiry of debt relief measures first announced by Bank of Uganda during 2020 to help soften the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on both borrowers and the banks.
Loans under repayment moratoria, mainly in the real estate, education and industrial sectors, increased to eight per cent of gross loans at the end of 2021 and may pressure asset quality when remaining credit relief measures expire at the end of September 2022. Another factor relates to the effects from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and lingering pandemic risks that could negatively impact the economic recovery given Uganda’s small and undiversified economy, low vaccination rates and oil import reliance.