South Korean upgrades push China’s top banks down the ranking.

Author: Andrew Cunningham

The safest three emerging markets banks are South Korean, following ratings upgrades by Moody’s and S&P. Korea Development Bank, Export-Import Bank of Korea and Industrial Bank of Korea now have at least one AA and one AA- rating each, which puts the South Korean trio ahead of National Bank of Abu Dhabi, which had led the ranking but now falls to fourth position, despite holding the same ratings as last year.

The Korean bank upgrades followed S&P’s decisions to raise its rating on the South Korean government in September 2015 and in August 2016, and Moody’s upgrade of the South Korean government in December 2015. The upgrades applied primarily to government-related banks—some private-sector South Korean banks hold the same ratings as they did last year.

Eight South Korean banks are rated highly enough to be included in this ranking. That’s one fewer than last year, and a result of the merger of Korea Exchange Bank and Hana Bank.

The other big change to the emerging markets rankings is the demise of Saudi banks. Again, this has been driven by changes to sovereign ratings. S&P downgraded the government of Saudi Arabia by three notches in the past year, and Fitch and Moody’s downgraded it by one notch in the spring. As a result, the number of Saudi banks in the Safest 50 Emerging Markets Banks has fallen to three from nine. National Commercial Bank, Al Rajhi Bank and Samba Financial Group are the three that remain.

Saudi banks have been replaced in the rankings by those from Kuwait and Qatar, which retained their ratings. Banks in the UAE also retained their ratings over the past year.

The nine new entries to this year’s list comprise six Qatari banks, which in some cases were excluded in previous years because of insufficient asset size, and three from Kuwait. Some Kuwaiti banks have benefited from upgrades over the past year.

Others falling off the list include Oman’s Bank Muscat (owing to rating downgrades) and Czechoslovakia’s Česká spořitelna. The former was downgraded; the latter kept its ratings but they are no longer sufficient to qualify. This year, banks need a minimum score of 14 (equating to two A ratings and one A-) to be included in the Safest 50, whereas last year, the 50th-ranked bank, Emirates NBD, had 12.5 points. Following an upgrade from Moody’s, this year Emirates NBD, based in Dubai, is ranked 41st.

Banks from four GCC states—Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE—account for half of the 50 Safest Emerging Markets Banks. Asian banks account for 20: eight each from China and South Korea and four from Taiwan. Chilean banks are the only representatives from South and Central America. Komerční banka, from the Czech Republic, is the only representative from Central or Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union.

The criteria used to compile Global Finance’s ranking of the safest emerging markets banks are the same as those used to compile the global ranking.


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