Bank Performance in Transition Economies
This paper examines the performance of 515 banks in 16 transition economies for the years 1994 – 99 based on their public financial accounts. We first examine lending behaviour and probability distribution of bank profitability to determine whether these banks exhibit behaviour and performance associated with excessive risk-taking. While we do not find evidence of excessive risk taking on average where there is significant progress in banking and related enterprise reforms, there may be a minority of poorly capitalised banks that do take excessive risks, particularly where progress in reform is less advanced. The paper then estimates cost and revenue functions based on a model of banks as multi-product firms. The results indicate that banks' performance differs significantly depending on the reform environment, as well as the competitive conditions, in which they operate. Banks with high market shares have higher costs and achieve lower margins on their loan and deposit activities. Where there has been significant progress in banking and related enterprise reforms, banks are making comfortable margins on loans and appear to be offering competitive margins on deposits, though they are still achieving overall negative returns on equity. By contrast, when substantial reforms have not been undertaken, banks have been sustaining high negative returns on loans, largely at the expense of depositors; in effect they have been able to appropriate much of the tax that inflation levies on nominal deposits, and have been using this revenue to prop up their weak loan portfolios. Overall interest margins are declining over time but are substantially higher in low reform environments. The results indicate that an appropriate policy and regulatory framework may be a necessary condition for significant progress to be made.
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