PR Banking Industry Report Q4 2018

March 13, 2019

The Puerto Rico banking industry closed the year 2018 on a high note, registering a Pre-Tax ROE of 14%, the highest level of profitability since 2005. The divergence between the profitability of local banks and US commercial banks narrowed significantly in 2018 with US commercial banks reporting a Pre-Tax ROE of 15.1%. The local banking industry has become increasingly concentrated with Popular holding $37.9 billion (58%) in assets of an industry total of $65.9 billion, and the three largest banks, i.e. Popular, FirstBank and Oriental, accounting for 84% of the total. The industry-wide cost to income reached 55.9% in 2018, the lowest level since prior to the onset of the economic downturn of 2006. With few opportunities to deploy excess capital, capital levels continue to strengthen with an industry level Tier 1 Risk-Based Capital Ratio of 21.7% in 2018, compared to less than 10% in 2008. Asset quality has also been moving in the right direction, with the industry closing 2018 with a nonperforming loans ratio of 6.8%. Concerns over post-hurricane asset quality deterioration have largely dissipated. The strong profitability performance of banks in 2018 was accompanied by a strengthening of their balance sheets with total assets increasing by 5.7%, deposits by 7.9% and the industry credit portfolio by 2.8%. Given the latest trends in profitability levers, upcoming recovery funds and economic forecasts, we expect a similar or even stronger performance in 2019.

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