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  • By Ernie Tolentino

Banks Prepping For Survival Amid Looming Slowdown

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

Some large and even medium-sized domestic banks have begun to take pre-emptive actions to survive the looming global slowdown projected by multilateral financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Photo Insert: Ayala-controlled Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) just finalized a merger agreement with the Robinsons Bank Corp. (RBC) of the John Gokongwei group.

Outside of equity build-up, the banks have opted for merger and or consolidation with other institutions, including the Ayala-controlled Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI), which has just finalized a merger agreement with the Robinsons Bank Corp. (RBC) of the John Gokongwei group, a move described by the S&P Global Ratings that could open up collaboration opportunities between the Ayala and Gokongwei groups and boost the surviving lender’s domestic presence.

The others, like Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (MBTC), are resorting to equity build-up via long-term borrowings to break thru, as well as grow during, the much-feared recession.

Being the larger unit of the two units in terms of assets and equity, BPI is set to absorb RBC before the end-2023, prompting the S&P to comment that “the merger could generate lending and fee income opportunities (for BPI), given the Gokongwei Group’s diverse business operation across the country.”

“We believe the merger would strengthen ties between Ayala Corp. and the Gokongwei Group. The merger could generate lending and fee income opportunities, given Gokongwei Group’s diverse business operation across the country,” S&P said in a commentary release on Thursday.

All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

“In our view, operational integration would be manageable, and could present cost synergies via elimination of branch overlaps, given both banks have a domestics focus,” the credit rater added.

S&P does not expect the merger to have a significant impact on BPI’s credit rating, asset quality, funding and liquidity, or capital ratios. It said BPI will benefit from having a larger customer and deposit base.

“RBC is smaller than BPI, at about 7% of its total assets. BPI’s pro forma Tier-1 capital ratio is likely to decline marginally to about 15.8% upon merger completion, compared with 15.9% as of June 30, 2022,” S&P said.

Business: Business men in suite and tie in a work meeting in the office located in the financial district.

In a separate note on Oct. 4, CreditSights said BPI’s planned merger with RBC is a positive development as both banks are prioritizing digitalization.

“Post-transaction, BPI would be able to play in the digital bank space as well, which would further aid its push into retail,” CreditSights said. “Synergies across several products and service platforms of both banks are to be expected, as with collaboration and new business opportunities across the Gokongwei conglomerate’s extensive ecosystem of businesses.”

Banking & finance: Business man in suit and tie working on his laptop and holding his mobile phone in the office located in the financial district.

Both parties are into real estate development and shopping mall operations; retail-oriented activities.

“As for Robinsons Bank, recognition that banking is a scale game and the capital and difficulty involved in scaling up its business likely drove the conglomerate’s decision to sell its banking unit to a larger competitor. The unit’s capital ratios have fallen meaningfully in recent times following three years of rapid growth since the last round of capital infusion in 2018,” it added.

Market & economy: Market economist in suit and tie reading reports and analysing charts in the office located in the financial district.

Under the deal announced last week, BPI will be the surviving entity from the planned merger, which the companies hope to complete before end-2023. Upon its closing, RBC’s shareholders will hold approximately 6.0% of the resulting outstanding capital stock of BPI.

Through the merger, BPI will also be taking over RBC’s 20% stake in digital lender GoTyme Bank, a joint venture between the Gokongwei Group and Tyme. GoTyme Bank was one of the six entities granted an online banking license by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

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