Fitch affirms Edirisinghe Trust Investment at ‘BB-’; says Outlook Stable

Tuesday, 8 March 2011 00:36 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Fitch Ratings Lanka said yesterday it has affirmed Sri-Lanka-based Edirisinghe Trust Investment Ltd’s (ETI) National Long-Term rating at ‘BB-(lka)’ with Stable Outlook.

ETI’s rating reflects its relatively weak core equity position and large exposure to real estate investments. It also takes into account the company’s considerable exposure to, and solid franchise in, low-risk gold-backed lending (pawning), and its consequently sound asset quality.

Substantial improvement in ETI’s core capital base and profitability while maintaining asset quality could result in a rating upgrade.

Conversely, increased exposure to debt-funded investments leading to lower profitability, and/or deterioration in capitalisation or asset quality could result in a downgrade.

Real estate investments accounted for 22% of assets for the nine months ended December 2010 (9MFY11; FYE09:24%) and are debt-funded. Considerably lower disposals of these properties in FY09-9M11 have weighed on profitability. Consequently, profitability as measured by returns on assets at 1.7% in 9MFY11 (FY10: 0.6%) was low in relation to other registered finance companies (RFCs) rated by Fitch (FY10: 1.8%). The company expects to sell off a considerable share of its property projects by end-Q1FY12. ETI has not undertaken further real estate investments since 2009 and has indicated that it will continue not to do so as it further sells down the portfolio.

Pawning increased to 74% of total advances at end-9MFY11 (FYE10: 68%; FYE09: 58%) enhancing ETI’s asset quality and maturity schedules. Gross non-performing advances (NPAs) accounted for 5.1% of advances at 9MFY11 (FYE10: 6.3%) and compared well with other RFCs rated by Fitch (FYE10: 12.9%). However, Fitch notes that asset quality could weaken as ETI grows its vehicle financing portfolio where NPAs are considerably higher (24% of advances at end-9MFY11).

Due to ETI’s large exposure to pawning, which carries a low risk weight for regulatory capital adequacy computations, capital adequacy is within regulatory minimum requirements. However, Fitch notes that core absolute capitalisation remains weak and core equity (excluding fair value gains on investment properties) was 5% of total assets at end-9MFY11. As a result, ETI would need to strengthen its capital base to support future growth, particularly of non-pawning products which carry a higher risk weight.

ETI is a mid-sized RFC, and has been a closely held family-owned company since its establishment in 1967. The Edirisinghe family, which also has interests in manufacturing and retailing of gold jewellery, pawning and film production, owns 99.2% of ETI. This holding will be diluted once the company lists its shares on the Colombo Stock Exchange in early 2011 in keeping with regulatory requirements.