Executive Summary of Monthly Financial Sector Discussions 09/2018

Executive Summary of Monthly Economic Development & Outlook Discussions

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

The successful August 2018 launch of the “Update: Trade & Investment” segment into our monthly Discussions received an additional momentum with the inclusion of another Foreign Mission providing some unique data points during this September discussion.

Additionally, there was an engaging discussion on the “Potential economic outcomes via additional Foreign Bank activities” operating in Myanmar.

A brief overview of all the subject matters discussed.

Update: “German Trade & Investment into Myanmar”

With the expressed permission of disclosure granted by the First Secretary at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, we reproduce some of the salient points discussed:

  • The Economic and Commercial Section at the German Embassy follows the development in Myanmar’s economy and promotes German-Myanmar economic relations. The Embassy works closely together with the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Myanmar, which provides more B2B services and a local business association, the German-Myanmar Business Chamber.
  • German-Myanmar trade has grown significantly over the last years, especially when it comes to imports from Myanmar. In 2017, Germany has imported goods and services from Myanmar worth almost USD 630 million, which is almost five times the volume of 2014 (USD 133 million). Imports mainly consist of textiles and garments but also some agricultural produce. In the first six months of 2018 imports already stand at USD 396 million, compared to USD 223 million during the same period in 2017. A higher import volume than in 2017 is expected.
  • When it comes to exports from Germany to Myanmar, we see a slight decline to USD 118 million in 2018 (2014: USD 130 million). Machinery, optical products and recently pharmaceuticals are the main export products. The trend seems to continue, as exports only accounted for USD 60 million during the first six months of 2018 compared to USD 63 million during the same period in 2017.
  • Regarding investment, German companies so far have not realized any large scale direct investment. Accumulated investment now stands at USD 32 million, of which the biggest chunk is due to a recent investment in the wholesale sector. In general, a lot of German companies are active in the Myanmar market, but mainly via representative offices or local partners. Although there is awareness regarding the high potential in Myanmar’s economy, current overall conditions seem to make it more favorable to stick to small scale presences.

In conclusion a cautious message on the investment front however a slimmer of hope on some outsourcing activities emanating from the textiles and garment sector.

Potential economic outcomes via additional Foreign Bank activities

There are 13 foreign banks operating in Myanmar for the last 3 years. With the benefit of having the diversity of thoughts of approximately 10 foreign banks participating in this discussion, we summarize the discussions as follows:

The Foreign Banks have to date had a restricted bank license where they can primarily support only foreign owned companies and cannot do retail business. The current products and services offered by foreign banks include the following:

  1. Trade Finance including performance bonds, guarantees and stand by letter of credit etc.
  2. Cash management solutions including collections and payments in USD, and MMK currencies
  3. Spot FX, and FX Forwards
  4. Lending including working capital and term loans in USD and MMK currencies

The key economic challenges faced by foreign banks were highlighted as follows:

  • USD 40m capital is on deposit to the Central Bank of Myanmar as part of initial license conditions aggregating USD 520m for all the 13 foreign banks. As foreign banks typically follow Basel 3 guidelines that requires them to measure Economic Profit, such lock of up capital creates a severe down draft on profitability.
  • Additionally, due to low implied rating of Myanmar, the USD 40m results in a much higher Risk Weighted Asset (around 250% of USD 40m locked in capital for each bank) resulting in a significant economic loss for each bank.
  • Assuming this USD 520 million is released to the foreign banks, this will entail monies being deployed in productive investment and trade finance that will benefit the Myanmar economy and make foreign banks profitable resulting in higher tax revenues for Myanmar.
  • Foreign banks are not allowed to pay interest on MMK deposits resulting in significant reliance on inter bank borrowings from local banks.
  • Although Foreign banks are branches, there is single borrower limit issue for each foreign bank that can lend a maximum of 20% of its capital restricting loans to foreign owned customers.
  • Stamp duty considerations on each loan document are not clear as it depends on township to township for exact determination of stamp duty payments. Registration of security also requires clarity.

There was common agreement amongst local bank stakeholders who agreed that these factors do not create a healthy environment for their customers and ultimately also the deposit holders.

In conclusion the hurdles that are currently imposed on the foreign banks could be easily reversed in creating positive outcomes for the many stakeholders for the Banking / Financial sector in addition to the larger economy.

The Discussions thereafter adjourned, with the next monthly Discussion date confirmed for Tuesday, November 06th, 2018 and October Discussions differed for the Annual Conference on Wednesday, October 10th, 2018.