Business

Loan growth surges, bad debt falls

Wednesday, June 11, 2014    

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JAMAICANS are borrowing at record amounts while keeping non-performing loans (NPLs) to three-year lows, according to the latest Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) prudential indicators.

Total gross loans outstanding increased to $468 billion or 9.8 per cent higher year on year.

The bulk of bank loans were issued by commercial banks at $361.9 billion with building societies accounting for $99.4 billion and near banks at $7.6 billion.

National Commercial Bank of Jamaica held the largest slice of loans for any institution at $148.4 billion (net of provisions) followed by Bank of Nova Scotia at $114 billion.

NPLs or loans unserviced for at least three months, across the financial sector, fell to $22.8 billion at March 2014, or down 13.9 per cent when compared with year earlier levels.

It therefore resulted in reducing NPLs as a percentage of total loans to 4.9 per cent compared with 6.2 per cent a year earlier, data indicated.

Two years earlier, NPLs surpassed $32 billion which was the highest since the financial sector meltdown in the 1990s.

NPLs initially jumped in the June quarter of 2008, when the local recession reduced economic activity and employment.

In 2010, NPLs again trended upward based on the fallout of unregulated schemes, as investments were secured via loans, according to analysts.

Large unregulated currency trading firm Olint initially doubled client investments in 12 months. The operation, which pooled some US$220 million from 6,000 clients, was deemed a Ponzi scheme by overseas prosecutors. It led to the imprisonment of Olint head David Smith.

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