Moody’s downgrades Papua New Guinea’s rating to B2 with stable outlook

Global Credit Research – 25 Apr 2016

Singapore, April 25, 2016 — Moody’s Investors Service has today downgraded the Government of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) foreign currency and local currency issuer ratings to B2 from B1. The outlook on these ratings is stable. This concludes the review for downgrade initiated on 25 February 2016.

The key drivers of the downgrade are:

• Strains on foreign currency reserve adequacy due to heightened balance of payments pressures that will continue over the next two years; and

• The persistence of unfavorable domestic funding conditions for the government that have increased refinancing risks and eroded debt affordability.

The stable outlook is based on Moody’s view that PNG’s medium-term economic growth prospects remain robust, although lower commodity prices and the consequent fiscal and economic adjustment will weigh on growth outcomes in 2016 and 2017. In addition, a reduction in fiscal deficits has helped to slow the rise in government debt, which remains low among similarly-rated countries.

While the review was prompted in part by the impact of structurally weaker prices of oil and related commodities on PNG’s economy and fiscal accounts, we have determined that the continuation of the pressures on government and external liquidity first flagged when we assigned a negative outlook in 2015 were more relevant.

 

RATINGS RATIONALE

DOWNGRADE TO B2

First driver: Continued deterioration in foreign currency reserve adequacy

PNG’s gross foreign currency reserves have fallen sharply to $1.69 billion at end-2015, down from a peak of $4.26 billion at end-2011, reflecting the continuation of the balance of payments pressures that prompted our assignment of a negative outlook on PNG’s rating last year. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) production drove the large rise in exports and the restoration of the current account surplus since 2014. However, this has failed to stem the deterioration in PNG’s external payments position as cross-border debt servicing and other demands for foreign currency as represented by the large financial account outflows have overwhelmed the supply of hard currency available to the central bank, the Bank of Papua New Guinea (BankPNG).

BankPNG has intervened to stem a disorderly adjustment of the exchange rate, and placed the costs of this intervention at $828.5 million in 2015 alone. It also introduced exchange controls last year that effectively rationed foreign currency.

Although production at the country’s largest gold and copper mine resumed in March 2016, associated export receipts will only mitigate, not eliminate, the ongoing balance of payments pressures. Reserve adequacy has weakened accordingly, with our estimate of short-term external debt repayments rising to over 140% of the stock of foreign currency reserves as compared to 83.7% in 2014. Moreover, the challenging environment for external liquidity has fed back to the real economy through weaker sentiment, which is already suffering from the decline in global prices for PNG’s commodity exports.

Second driver: Pressures on the government’s liquidity position due to unfavorable funding conditions

Declining fiscal revenue and constrained domestic financing conditions have weakened the government’s liquidity position. Although commencement of LNG production supported economic activity in 2015, it has not benefited revenue to the same degree, because of lower LNG prices which track oil price trends with a lag of a few months. We estimate revenue as a share of GDP fell to 17.1% in 2015, the lowest level in at least a decade, and project a further decline in this ratio this year.

Wide deficits in recent years have led to higher interest rates for government securities, as domestic investors have lowered their exposure to sovereign risk by either shortening duration or limiting their holdings of government debt. Refinancing risks have thus risen as the proportion of domestic market debt comprised of short-term obligations has increased, and debt affordability has deteriorated rapidly on account of the higher interest rates demanded in primary auctions. Short-term debt now accounts for 48.1% of total domestic market debt as of end-2015, while interest payments as a share of revenue—our preferred measure of debt affordability—has nearly doubled to 9.8% in 2015 from 5.3% in 2013.

Central bank absorption has offset somewhat the decreased local appetite for government bonds—BankPNG held 21.0% of domestic market debt as of September 2015, up from 7.1% two years earlier. Nevertheless, poor funding conditions have led the government to curtail spending, further weighing on economic growth.

 

STABLE OUTLOOK

The stable outlook balances the weak near term growth outlook against more robust economic prospects over the longer-term. In particular, the successful implementation of the PNG LNG Project has demonstrated operational efficiencies, profitability, and a relatively low cost structure, which enhance PNG’s competitive advantage in extractive industries, and bolster the prospects of similarly large projects, even against the backdrop of structurally lower commodity prices. Such projects include a potential expansion of the preexisting PNG LNG Project, an entirely new development called the Papua LNG Project, and the Wafi-Golpu gold mine. While we do not expect material progress on the implementation of these projects until late 2017, the resulting upturn and stabilization in growth will, in our view, alleviate external and fiscal pressures from escalating. In the interim, however, Moody’s expects the government’s fiscal consolidation efforts to maintain low government debt levels compared to similarly rated peers, while funding conditions and external liquidity will remain tight. An upturn and stabilization in growth and exports will, in our view, keep external and fiscal pressures from escalating. In addition, Moody’s expects the government’s fiscal consolidation efforts to keep government debt levels low as compared to similarly rated peers.

 

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP

Moody’s would consider upgrading the rating if increased non-debt creating external inflows lead to a material build-up in foreign currency reserves and improve reserve adequacy. A sustained improvement in the government’s fiscal and liquidity position accompanied by the restoration of the trend in debt consolidation would also be credit positive. Over the longer term, enhancements to potential growth and government revenue through the development of large projects, such as potentially significant additions to LNG and gold production, would also lead to upward pressure on the rating.

 

WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING DOWN

Triggers for a further negative rating action include: (1) a reemergence of wide fiscal deficits that lead to a rapid rise in government debt; (2) a worsening of growth prospects that could ultimately weigh on fiscal and debt sustainability; (3) a further decline in foreign currency reserves.

 

COUNTRY CEILINGS

Moody’s has lowered Papua New Guinea’s long-term foreign currency (FC) bond ceiling to B1 from Ba3 as well as its long-term FC deposit ceiling to B3 from B2. PNG’s short-term FC bond and deposit ceilings remain unchanged at “Not Prime.” These ceilings act as a cap on the ratings that can be assigned to the FC obligations of other entities domiciled in the country.

  • PNG’s local currency bond and deposit ceilings remain unchanged at Ba2.
  • GDP per capita (PPP basis, US$): 2,470 (2014 Actual) (also known as Per Capita Income)
  • Real GDP growth (% change): 9.9% (2015 Actual) (also known as GDP Growth)
  • Inflation Rate (CPI, % change Dec/Dec): 6.4% (2015 Actual)
  • Gen. Gov. Financial Balance/GDP: -3.9% (2015 Actual) (also known as Fiscal Balance)
  • Current Account Balance/GDP: 20.9% (2015 Estimate) (also known as External Balance)
  • External debt/GDP: 69.2% (2015 Estimate)
  • Level of economic development: Low level of economic resilience

Default history: No default events (on bonds or loans) have been recorded since 1983.

On 20 April 2016, a rating committee was called to discuss the rating of the Papua New Guinea, Government of. The main points raised during the discussion were: The issuer’s economic fundamentals, including its economic strength, have not materially changed. The issuer’s fiscal or financial strength, including its debt profile, has not materially changed. The issuer has become increasingly susceptible to event risks. An analysis of this issuer, relative to its peers, indicates that a repositioning of its rating would be appropriate. Government and external liquidity risk have increased. Other views raised included: The issuer’s institutional strength/ framework, have not materially changed.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Sovereign Bond Ratings published in December 2015. Please see the Ratings Methodologies page on http://www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

The weighting of all rating factors is described in the methodology used in this credit rating action, if applicable.

 

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody’s rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider’s credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on http://www.moodys.com.

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Please see http://www.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody’s legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on http://www.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

 

Christian de Guzman
VP – Senior Credit Officer
Sovereign Risk Group
Moody’s Investors Service Singapore Pte. Ltd.
50 Raffles Place #23-06
Singapore Land Tower
Singapore 48623
Singapore
JOURNALISTS: (852) 3758 -1350
SUBSCRIBERS: (852) 3551-3077

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World Bank to assist PNG Sovereign Wealth Fund setup

May 14, 2017 – By ROSALYN ALBANIEL

THE World Bank will be assisting the Bank of Papua New Guinea establish PNG’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Secretariat.

This was announced last Friday by BPNG governor Loi Bakani during an update on the matter.

“We got a visit from the World Bank and have got someone on the ground to help us set up that office. This is the administrative secretariat reporting to the board of the SWF,” Mr Bakani said.
Mr Bakani said there had been some issues on the appointment of the board of directors for the fund but said this is being handled by accounting firm KPMG under the directions of the Department of Treasury.

“As far as the secretariat is concerned, we hope to have someone very experienced on the ground to set up the office that will coordinate work here and we will set up the office once everything is in order,” he said.

On the issue of revenue flow into the fund, he said the main providers would be companies in the mining and petroleum sector including the LNG projects.

In the case of the multi-billion kina PNG LNG project, he indicated that this was likely to happen round about 2021, 2022 onwards.

“The national budget is framed around that time. This is when government expects the budget will also be balanced.”

“This is when government expects the PNG LNG will start paying taxes.”

“As it is, we have not got any foreign exchange from this project.”

“Until and unless the accelerated depreciation ends, which is seven to eight years, is over since first export in 2014.

“This is when we will see some taxes. It is still a long way away,” he said.

Bank South Pacific to list on ASX

By: Jonny Andrew

Papua New Guinea’s largest bank, Bank of South Pacific (BSP) would be making history for Papua New Guinea when they list on Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).

The BSP Bank — one of the largest listed on the Port Moresby Exchange — has more deposits than loans because of the limited corporate field to lend to in Papua New Guinea, according to sources.

Bankers at UBS met with fund managers in the past fortnight, testing their appetite for a dual listing of the financial operation in Australia, in addition to the Port Moresby stock exchange, where it is already listed.

It is estimated to be floated at $1 billion dollars.

bsp

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PNG’s Bank South Pacific eyes ASX listing via UBS

Papua New Guinea’s largest bank, Bank South Pacific, is heading towards a listing on the Australian Securities Exchange through investment bank UBS, with a float expected to be worth at least $1 billion.

Bankers at UBS met with fund managers in the past fortnight, testing their appetite for a dual listing of the financial operation in Australia, in addition to the Port Moresby stock exchange, where it is already listed.

The bank — one of the largest listed on the Port Moresby Exchange — has more deposits than loans because of the limited corporate field to lend to in Papua New Guinea, according to sources.

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Bank South Pacific Loan Mix

There are a number of economic headwinds in PNG — its biggest market — with inflation running at 6 or 7 per cent, while currency risk remains a factor.

Gross domestic product in PNG is shrinking due to the completion of the PNG LNG project. At the same time the weaker outlook for oil has put a question mark over other major energy projects.

Currently listed, Bank South Pacific is owned by various local institutions.

Net interest margins are 7 per cent, and the long-term compound annual growth rate is 24 per cent. The bank doubled its earnings in the past six years, posting 532 million kina ($224.9m) in net profit during the 2015 financial year, and return on equity is 29 per cent.

In 2014, its revenue was 1.67 billion kina.

BSP also has 20 per cent of its earnings from tier one capital and has the largest amount of employees, branches (there are currently 35 in six countries) and ATMs.

It has 650,000 banking customers throughout the Pacific, and in December 2014, it had assets valued at 15.8 billion kina.

Originally, BSP was derived from the National Bank of Australasia, based in Port Moresby.

As independence approached for PNG, the incoming government made known its desire that all banks in PNG be locally incorporated, rather than branches of a foreign parent.

Since its inception, Bank South Pacific has had a strategy of rapidly expanding throughout the South Pacific.

It has acquired assets from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac

Our bank regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, has a cross-border training program with PNG authorities.

BSP’s move comes after PNG finance house Kina Securities listed in Australia last year in a dual listing to raise $97m, with a $164m market value, in an effort to offer funding power for its Malaysian-owned Maybank acquisition and enable the sell-down of 35 per cent shareholder Fu Shan Investment. Former Suncorp banking chief David Foster was appointed to the board.

Since listing at $1 per share, the company’s share price has risen to $1.06, which was its closing price on Friday.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/dataroom/pngs-bank-south-pacific-eyes-asx-listing-via-ubs/news-story/b761d9a01e726132926b3c40ac2ed792