A man walks into a branch of CIMB bank in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

KUALA LUMPUR: Banks remain willing to lend to bankable households and businesses, and has approved roughly three out of four housing loan applications they received.

In a box article titled “Banking on Banks: Are They Lending Enough?”, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said in Jan-Sept 2019 (9M 2019) alone, banks approved housing loans worth RM119 billion for about 273,000 borrowers, of which 42 percent were first time homeowners.

It said loan rejections in this segment stems from a broader issue of home affordability, which becomes readily apparent when 72 percent of rejected applications were for the purchase of homes that are either seriously or severely unaffordable relative to the applicant’s income level.

Since 2016, household personal financing and housing loans have been growing more in line with incomes, at a pace of 3-5 percent and 7-9 percent, respectively, below their previous peaks of 20.5 percent and 13.4 per cent.

In the small and medium enterprise (SME) segment, banks have been approving about seven to eight out of every ten loan applications received.

In 9M 2019, this equates to RM50 billion in loans approved, which is higher than the three year average of RM48 billion for the same period, benefitting about 76,000 SMEs.

A man walks into a branch of CIMB bank in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

For SMEs, loan rejections were found to be most commonly associated with younger businesses with incomplete financial statements and negative net worth.

Structurally, BNM said growth in bank lending has stabilised to more moderate levels as compared with the strong credit growth during 2010-2014, a period of exuberant consumption credit and property-related lending.

“Outstanding loans from the banking system have registered a more moderate expansion. As at end of September 2019, the annual growth in outstanding loans from the banking system moderated to 3.8 per cent from 5.6 percent in 2018 and 4.1 percent in 2017.

“The moderation in credit growth reflects both structural and cyclical trends,” BNM said.

It said the gradual moderation in credit expansion partly reflects the outcome of a deliberate and measured policy strategy to manage risks from high household indebtedness and to curb excessive speculative activity in the Malaysian housing market.

It said banks have a natural incentive to lend in order to generate revenue, and, in the case of Malaysian banks, net interest income comprises 64.8 percent of their gross income.

“Over the years, this incentive to lend has grown stronger as banks’ profit margins have come under greater pressure due to strong competition among banks for market share.

“Faced with narrowing margins, the ability of banks to grow lending volume has become more important to maintain profitability,” it said. – Bernama