Emerging market banks: Turbulent times
It's been a year of upheaval for banks in emerging markets. Thailand, Korea and Mexico have been particularly badly affected. The biggest losers in our ranking were public-sector banks. By Robin Monro-Davies, managing director of IBCA.
Our table includes banks from 30 countries with equity bases ranging from more than $10 billion to less than $500 million. Dominant in Asia are the large Chinese banks, still in transition from their former role as state-controlled entities to private-sector entities operating in a quasi-market economy. There is still a long way to go before Chinese banks' data or performance can meaningfully be compared with most others. Elsewhere in Asia the main interest must focus on the Thai and Korean banks as they face rapidly mounting loan losses. The inherently higher profitability of the Thai banks may mean they recover first.
Bank performance in Latin America mirrors economic progress, so it is Mexican banks that face the greatest problems, with asset quality still poor and profitability low, while Chilean banks continue to enjoy high returns. In Argentina bank results are improving and Brazil's banks, after surviving hyperinflation, have in most cases adapted successfully to the current low-inflation environment. The main question is perhaps the extent to which international banks will dominate. Spanish banks already have significant market share in several countries and recent purchases by HSBC Holdings in Brazil and Argentina may foreshadow other acquisitions.