The Greens want to cut mortgage rates by having KiwiBank expand in business lending. Wrong market.
This expansion into a market that is not the mortgage market is to be underwritten by a capital injection as the Greens explain:
- Inject a further $100 million of capital in KiwiBank to speed its expansion into commercial banking;
- Allow KiwiBank to keep more of its profits to help it grow faster; and,
- Give KiwiBank a clear public purpose to lead the market in passing on interest rate cuts.
Note well that the $100 million capital injection is to expand in to commercial banking. More aggressive passing on of interest rate cuts may jeopardise credit ratings if this lowers the profitability of KiwiBank. KiwiBank has an A- rating
The bigger hole in the policy is the more aggressive mortgage rate setting by KiwiBank will be done by keeping more of its profits and paying fewer dividends to its parent company Kiwi Post and through that to the taxpayer. There are next to no dividends currently to stop distributing to fund a more aggressive mortgage rate setting policy.
KiwiBank paid its first dividend last year. Prior to that, the bank kept all profits to allow it to expand its lending base. $20 million in foregone dividends does not go far given the actual size of all lending markets in New Zealand.
KiwiBank is minnow in the mortgage market and a pimple in commercial lending. Rapid business expansion is risky in any market, much less in banking.
The government has declined further capital injections so profits were retained to meet capital adequacy ratios. The government in 2010 earmarked NZ$300 million for an uncalled capital facility for NZ Post to help maintain its credit rating and KiwiBank’s growth.
Saving the best for last, KiwiBank last year announced plans to borrow up to $150 million through an issue of BB- perpetual capital notes to be used to bolster the bank’s regulatory capital position.
The Margin for the Perpetual Capital Notes has been set at 3.65% per annum and the interest rate will be 7.25% per annum for the first five years until the first reset date of 27 May 2020. Kiwi Capital Funding Limited is not guaranteed by KiwiBank, New Zealand Post nor the New Zealand Government.
The Perpetual Capital Notes have a BB- credit rating compared to KiwiBank which has an A- rating. These capital notes were issued in addition to prior subordinate debt in the form of CHF175 million (about NZ$233 million) worth of 5-year bonds.
I doubt that KiwiBank can raise capital through subordinated debt under normal commercial conditions if it does not plan to seek profits in the same way as other commercial banks do. The current issue of Perpetual Capital Notes are already rated as junk bonds:
An issue of $150 million of perpetual capital notes from KiwiBank with a speculative, or "junk", credit rating have been priced at the bottom of their indicative margin range.
The closest the prospectus for these Perpetual Capital Notes got to complementing KiwiBank changing from a normal business to being a public good is the following risk statement:
Kiwibank’s banking activities are subject to extensive regulation, mainly relating to capital, liquidity levels, solvency and provisioning.
Its business and earnings are also affected by the fiscal or other policies that are adopted by various regulatory authorities of the New Zealand Government.
The interest rate on this subordinate debt will go up to offset the additional risk of aggressive lending and aggressive expansion, which will cancel out many of the advantages of not having to pay for dividends and the capital injection.
That discipline is one of the purposes of subordinate debt in the regulatory capital of banks. This is to provide another pair of eyes and ears to watch the performance of the bank and through rising costs of lending and risk ratings, signal trouble of imprudent lending and lack of cost control.
The proposal to use KiwiBank to lower mortgage rates does not add up. KiwiBank does not pay much in the way of dividends to fund such a foray. KiwiBank is already far more leveraged than any other New Zealand major bank.