Thursday, May 21, 2009

EPF takes profit from banking stocks

By The Star

The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has taken profit on almost all its banking shareholdings since the start of May with the exception of Public Bank Bhd and AMMB Holdings Bhd.

Analysts said the move was not entirely surprising given the sharp rises in most of the banks share prices over the past few weeks.

AmResearch senior banking analyst Fiona Leong said prices of banking stocks were at a good level in recent times for profit taking since EPF had been accumulating these stocks to its portfolio since December.

ECM Libra, in a latest update, said the profit-taking activity by EPF also explained the slight pause in the share price movement over the last one week, with most share prices trading within the -5% to +5% region for the week.

Despite profit taking, positive sentiment and interest surrounding banking stocks have certainly turned up a notch on the back of expectations that the worst of the recession is over and earlier concerns of widespread loan delinquencies may have been overdone.

“Share prices could continue on their uptrend on returning interest as most stocks are trading at relatively inexpensive valuations,” ECM Libra said.

On the recent results announcement, ECM Libra noted that Bumiputra-Commerce Holdings Bhd (BCHB) continued to register strong growth in its loans book though its overall asset quality had shown some deterioration after the consolidation of CIMB Thai.

“Based on the recent results, it would seem that larger financial institutions, such as Public Bank Bhd and BCHB, are continuing to see decent growth in their loans book while smaller ones, such as Hong Leong Bank Bhd and AMMB Holdings Bhd, are seeing slowdowns, possibly as a conscious decision to protect their balance sheets and capital,” the report added.

Meanwhile, AmResearch’s Leong said the recent results were within expectations except for BCHB, which registered slightly higher net interest margins.

“The general net interest margin contractions registered were due to the recent cuts in OPR (overnight policy rate),” she said.

She added that local banks did not show any significant increase in non-performing loans (NPLs) ratio up till March.

“However, there could be a substantial increase in NPLs by the second quarter of this year,” she said, adding that loans growth were also expected to moderate sharply from 12.8% registered last year.

*Does this means that banking stock has a proven strong record for good profit margin? Should we look at the perspective that banking stock can be a long term high yield stock?