Saudi Press

Saudi Arabia and the world
Monday, Apr 15, 2024

Saudi Arabia Surpasses US and Europe in Basel IV Readiness

Saudi Arabia has impressively exceeded the Basel III minimum capital adequacy ratio of 8% with a robust 19.5%, showcasing its commitment to financial stability.
The Saudi central bank's latest figures highlight the Kingdom's notable lead in being fully compliant with the stricter Basel IV regulations, which demand from banks specific leverage ratios and reserve capitals.

Its compliance is ahead of the EU, UK, and Switzerland, which are still finalizing their adoption, and significantly ahead of the US, which is only beginning consultations.

Although Saudi Arabia's capital adequacy ratio has slightly dropped from 20% in early 2023, it remains comfortably above the Basel III threshold, emphasizing its strong banking regulatory framework.

Basel III, developed to bolster global financial stability after the 2008 crisis, has, since its introduction in 2017, evolved into Basel IV or 3.1 with the aim of further enhancing the resilience of the banking sector.

The implementation of Basel IV, initially set for January 2022, was delayed to 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to varied transitional timelines across nations.

A Fitch Ratings report from February 2023 spotlights Saudi Arabia, alongside countries like Australia and Canada, as having met the international Basel IV start date.

Saudi Arabia's advanced and conservative regulatory approach is evident in how banks calculate risk-weighted assets and maintain capital buffers to sustain possible economic downturns.

The required capital, divided into Tier 1 (high-quality capital like common equity) and Tier 2 (absorbing losses before affecting depositors and creditors), safeguards that institutions can cover potential losses, maintain financial health, and withstand financial stress.

Saudi banks boast a 16% Tier 1 capital ratio versus the required 6%, including a capital conservation buffer set at 2.5% of risk-weighted assets to help weather economic difficulties.

Banks failing to meet buffer requirements may face capital distribution constraints. The combination of Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital, where each must satisfy specific criteria and minimum levels as a percentage of risk-weighted assets, is crucial for sustaining a bank's financial strength.

As per Basel IV proposals, banks with high exposure to quality loans like residential and commercial mortgages or project finance in Saudi Arabia are expected to see improved capital ratios through more precise, generally lower risk-weights.

However, areas like land acquisition and construction might face stricter capital demands. Retail banks, especially in residential mortgages, stand to gain from friendlier capital ratios, courtesy of lowered risk-weights brought about by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority's (SAMA) 90% loan-to-value ratio cap. Despite these changes, Saudi's banking sector's overall capital ratio is projected to stay stable following a SAMA test in 2022.

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