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BCP, BMCE, Attijariwafa: Will Morocco’s top 3 banks see a recovery in 2021?

By El Mehdi Berrada, Joël Té-Léssia Assoko, Marie Toulemonde
Posted on Thursday, 8 April 2021 18:53

Banque Populaire de Casablanca’s administrative headquarters in Morocco. © Guillaume Mollé for JA

After a tumultuous 2020, doubts are mounting about whether subsidiaries south of the Sahara can boost the profitability of holding companies in Casablanca.

It was a bit of a blow. In February, Morocco’s three leading banks – Attijariwafa Bank, Bank of Africa (BOA, ex-BMCE) and Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP) – saw the outlook for their ratings go from “stable” to “negative” by Moody’s. Morocco’s government also received this same rating.

According to the international agency, this change “reflects the fact that the government will be unable to provide any financial support to Moroccan banks for the next 12 to 18 months.” However, these banks have retained their enviable “Ba1” rating, just one notch below an “investment grade” rating, due in particular to their “continued stable bank funding, strong liquidity and solid underlying profitability throughout the cycle.”

An extra boost

However, this raises another question regarding the strength of these banks, and that is about how much these subsidiaries south of the Sahara can contribute. The leaders of the Cherifian kingdom in sub-Saharan Africa’s breakthrough, which goes back 10 years, has strongly contributed to their growth or – during difficult years for the Moroccan market – to preserving their margins.

Will this extra boost be able to withstand the Covid-19 crisis?

This is the question that many are asking themselves on the Casablanca Stock Exchange, where the main Moroccan banks are listed and whose investors – not only in the banking sector, but also in ICT with Maroc Telecom or industry with LafargeHolcim Morocco – have become accustomed to counting on the “boost” of activities south of the Sahara.