French socialist president François Hollande has said a banking-reform law will be introduced by year-end that would see an enforced separation of retail and investment-banking activities, a blow for BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole.
The fact that France is not seeking to coordinate structural banking reforms on an EU-wide basis, as per the Liikanen report, probably reflects the macho mode of gung-ho policymakers. No matter. The European bank-holding company structure is on its way, complicating French banks efforts to attract capital amid question marks about the future of their corporate and investment banking books.
French banks retail banking prospects are also challenged amid eurozone austerity. Nevertheless, strategists at Citi on Wednesday struck a relatively bullish tone over the outlook for French retail banks, a rare silver lining in today's banking environment:
|- Private leverage remains manageable French household leverage is one of the lowest of advanced economies (67% of GDP vs c90% for sample). Corporate leverage (136% of GDP) is more comparable to the average (140%) and could be partly driven by a high number of large French multinationals. |
- LDR [loan-to-deposit] deleveraging helped by deposit growth We believe that markets with high levels of off-balance sheet savings pools benefit from natural deleveraging. Like the US, we believe that France has been a beneficiary of a significant shift from US MMFs to deposits (Figure 12), allowing its loan-to-deposit ratio to
decline from c140% to a more manageable c120% today. This ratio should further decline as deposit growth (up 9% yoy in July) continues to outpace loan growth (c2%, respectively) - see our accompanying French Big Picture report.
- Still a Cash Cow Although under pressure from the weak economy (subpar revenue growth, provisioning cycle), the French retail banking model remains intact, in our view, with RoE remaining above 15-20%.
Not so fast. Here are the risks:
|Sluggish revenue growth: We forecast -0.5 to -1% revenue decline in 2013E subpar to historical trends compared to nominal GDP growth..|
Volume slowdown to continue but remains positive and with further LDR improvement.
Net interest margins should see modest pressure. Negative pressure comes from declining reinvestment yields, further deterioration in the deposit mix and deposits not re-pricing as rapidly as loans. This should be partly offset by ongoing replacement of (pricier) wholesale funding with deposits through asset re-pricing. See our detailed analysis on margin trends.
Nevertheless, a deposit war is unlikely, Citi reckons:
Better prepared for funding tail risks