State banks resilient but risks increasing

The Government Savings Bank (GSB) and other state-run banks are resilient to the recent deposit pull-out from GSB branches, but risks in the financial system are increasing due to unclear sources of funding for the rice-pledging scheme, says Fitch Ratings.

In a statement, the international credit rating agency said the GSB's liquidity buffers, and the scope for policy-driven financial support from the central bank or from other state-owned institutions, should enable the GSB to surmount any limited, near-term funding challenges.

The recent massive deposit withdrawal from the GSB highlights the potential risk that politics could pose in undermining the Thai financial system, Fitch said.

The agency said it recently pointed out the political turmoil raised the risk of a longer than expected slowdown, putting greater credit pressure on banks.

One key risk, though not a central scenario, is an acceleration of deposit withdrawals from more state-owned banks. This could place an increasing burden on interbank credit lines and the central bank.

"At the moment, we believe the authorities are able to ward off near-term funding challenges for the state-owned banks. However, systemic risks are skewed to the downside, as a resolution of the political deadlock is not in sight and the funding of the government's rice subsidy programme remains uncertain," the statement said.

Deposit withdrawals from the GSB appear to be of a manageable size for now. The GSB reported the net pull-out was 30 billion baht on Monday, while its total deposit base stood at 1.72 trillion baht as of last August 31.

The withdrawals were related to public scepticism over the GSB's 20-billion-baht credit line to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), which could be used for the rice pledging scheme.

The GSB already indicated it will cancel the credit line. Both the GSB and the BAAC are backed by acts of parliament and are likely to obtain high levels of support.

The banks accounted for 10.6% and 6.1%, respectively, of banking system assets as of last June, and their stability is important for systemwide confidence.

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