Sector

Leasing

Type

Research

POSITIVE EXPECTATIONS regarding CAPITALIZATION OF THE LEASING SECTOR

  • The Agency believes that capital adequacy indicators of leasing companies will grow over the next 12 months. This will mainly be due to the decline in growth rates of leasing assets on the back of tight monetary policy.

  • The most pronounced growth in capitalization is predicted for companies that are more actively involved in working with large businesses, which are more sensitive to changes in monetary policy and more limited by an unstable and transforming external environment.

  • Lessors from the retail segment that are focused on small and medium-sized enterprises will accumulate capital at a slower pace. These companies are traditionally more adaptive to changes in external conditions and predisposed to rapid growth, and their clients demonstrate less elasticity to interest rate increases

  • The profitability of the leasing industry will remain at levels that are comfortable to accumulate sufficient equity buffers, although it is under certain pressure due to the higher cost of funds over the next 12 months and tough competition. 

SLOWER GROWTH OF LEASE PORTFOLIOS AND CONSISTENT PROFITABILITY WILL SUPPORT CAPITALIZATION

After a certain decline in capitalization1 observed in the leasing industry in H1 2023, ACRA expects the equity indicators2 to grow by the end of this year.

From January to June 2023, capitalization declined due to the recovery of business activity and the corresponding increase in lease portfolios following the downturn of 2022. This is evidenced by data from companies that published financial statements for the first six months of 20233. During this period, the total capital of the specified companies as a proportion of assets declined from approximately 27% to 23%.


1 Ratio of equity to total assets.
2 ACRA’s calculations and conclusions are based on assessments of a sample that includes 118 of the largest leasing companies that publically disclosed RAS reporting.
3 28 leasing companies from the sample publish semi-annual reports.

Figure 1. Amid a slowdown in the growth of lease portfolios, ACRA expects an increase in the sector’s capitalization in the next 12 months, similar to 2022


Source: RAS reporting for 118 of the largest leasing companies disclosing their performance in the SPARK-Interfax information system

The increase in capitalization of the leasing industry projected by the Agency in the next 12 months, on the contrary, is due to an expected decrease in the volume of new business. An additional positive impact, in ACRA’s opinion, will be stemming from maintaining the profitability of lessors.

Given the Bank of Russia’s signals that it intends to adhere to a contractionary monetary policy over a longer time horizon than in previous periods of monetary tightening, the Agency expects an increase in borrowing costs, which will limit the growth potential of the leasing industry.

The development of new business will also be hampered (albeit to a lesser extent) by the problems of shortage of certain categories of equipment and logistical difficulties that have been in place since 2022. Along with the devaluation component, these factors lead to an increase in the cost of leased objects, reducing the demand for the services of lessors. Taking this into account, ACRA expects the total lease portfolio to grow by 5–10% in 2024 as the base case scenario. Since the impact of a tight monetary policy does not appear immediately, but with a lag of several months, the growth of the leasing business based on the results of 2023 is likely to range from 20% to 30%.

In ACRA’s opinion, although the traditionally high profitability of the sector will experience some pressure due to the increased cost of funds in the next 12 months and high competition, it will remain at comfortable levels for internal capital adequacy generation.

Figure 2. The financial results of leasing companies in 2022 were attractive and even exceeded the metrics of 2021, despite a decline in economic activity and amid shocks and imbalance of the external environment


Source: RAS reporting for 118 of the largest leasing companies disclosing their performance in the SPARK-Interfax information system

ACRA notes that even on the backdrop of significant deterioration of external economic conditions and higher interest rates, lessors were able to maintain profitability.

THE MORE LIQUID THE PROPERTY, THE GREATER THE GROWTH POTENTIAL FOR THE LEASING BUSINESS

In the Agency’s opinion, the likelihood of a contraction in the total leasing portfolio over the next 12 months is low. The industry is an interesting and fast-growing segment that is far from mature, with low regulatory pressure and relatively high profitability (depending on business line). As the experience of H1 2022 has shown, even systemic shocks can cause only a short-term decline in the leasing business.

The intensity of the influence of constraining factors of the operating environment on the dynamics of capitalization of leasing companies and their profits will depend on the profile and scale of activity of a particular organization.

According to ACRA, retail leasing companies, as previously, will demonstrate the greatest adaptability to tightening monetary policy. Thus, the decline in business activity in 2020 and 2022 for most of these companies lasted no more than six months.

Figure 3. Asset dynamics by leasing company size: the balance sheet contraction in response to the challenges of 2022 followed a period of fairly strong growth, especially in the mid-sized leasing company segment


Source: RAS reporting for 118 of the largest leasing companies disclosing their performance in the SPARK-Interfax information system

The construction industry, mainly its road and infrastructure segments, will remain the growth driver of retail leasing in the next 12 months. Since infrastructure projects are often implemented with the involvement of the state and in the state’s interests, this is likely to somewhat offset the restraining effect of high rates due to more lenient regulation of the main donors of the structural adaptation of the economy, i.e. banks, as well as public financing and other incentives. It is worth noting that business activity in this area will support demand for not only the types of machinery and equipment directly used, but also for freight transport. These lease assets also remain in demand when building new logistics routes between Russia and friendly countries.

Import substitution goals and the development of the defense industry are still important and continue to drive leasing of industrial equipment. The passenger car lease segment is growing at a more confident pace after a major decline recorded earlier, due to Chinese manufacturers’ interest in the Russian market.

These factors can support the activity of respective companies with relevant business profiles, which is why growth of their capitalization is likely to be less pronounced.

The opposite situation may occur in the segment of leasing companies offering services to the housing construction industry. ACRA expects monetary policy to have a significant impact on this industry’s growth rate, which will constrain the business activity of lessors and strengthen their capital position.

The Agency also believes that companies engaged in leasing large equipment will accumulate capital at a faster pace in the next 12–18 months. The practice of 2022 confirms the viability of these expectations.

Figure 4. Capitalization depending on the size of lease companies: large companies are increasing their capitalization faster in the unstable operating environment


Source: RAS reporting for 118 of the largest leasing companies disclosing their performance in the SPARK-Interfax information system

First, the Agency notes that the lease dynamics of large assets continue to be influenced, although to a somewhat lesser extent, by the economic transformation trends that arose in 2022. The growth of the railway segment is limited due to ongoing changes in export-import flows and the logistics of cargo transportation to eastern destinations where throughput capacity constraints remain. The aviation segment is not expected to recover on the 12-month horizon as it remains under pressure from geopolitical factors; the needs of air carriers who are cut off from a significant part of business related to international flights are still covered by the existing fleet. The impact of rather ambitious plans for the production of domestic airliners on the operations of corresponding lessors is currently difficult to assess.

In addition, it is worth noting that pricing specifics in the segment of leasing services for large businesses suggests its greater sensitivity to changes in the interest rate in comparison with the retail segment. Under the conditions of limited financing, coupled with weaker supply and demand, ACRA believes that various government programs and incentives will be increasingly important for the dynamics of large lease assets. Accordingly, changes in capitalization, among other things, will be determined by the extent to which lessors and/or key lessees benefit from such initiatives.

most companies of the industry are profitable

While business expansion will largely be determined by the scale and profile of lessors’ activities, the ability to maintain profitability in periods of either economic recovery or recession is positively assessed by ACRA across the entire sector. Due to this, even with a moderate slowdown of the portfolio growth, profitability will become a common factor that contributes to the growth of capitalization in 2024 for many leasing companies regardless of their size and lines of business.

ACRA notes that even during the 2022 crisis, profitability remained fairly high; thus, leasing companies demonstrated their ability to maintain a stable financial result in the conditions of a general economic downturn. The strongest increase in profitability was observed in relatively large companies, who are right behind the industry leaders by asset size. Whether this trend is sustainable and reflects long-term changes in the competitive environment will become clear in the next 12–18 months.

Figure 5. Profitability depending on the size of lease companies: lease companies are able to increase profitability even in the conditions of economic downturn


Source: RAS reporting for 118 of the largest leasing companies disclosing their performance in the SPARK-Interfax information system

Given that the reduction of leasing portfolios is not the base case scenario considered by ACRA for the 12-month horizon, the Agency believes that the total amount of income from operations, all other things being equal, will not decline. In this case, the main risk for sustainable profitability may be a decrease in margins caused by both higher borrowing costs in the context of tighter monetary policy and stronger competition.

ACRA expects higher rates on borrowed funds to affect most leasing companies regardless of the volume of their operations. At the same time, the increase in interest expenses may become more noticeable for the leasing business compared to 2022 due to a longer projected period of tight monetary policy.

Figure 6. Funding costs depending on the size of lease companies: rate hikes equally impact funding costs of companies regardless their size


Source: RAS reporting for 118 of the largest leasing companies disclosing their performance in the SPARK-Interfax information system

Lessors’ ability to shift increased funding costs to customers’ shoulders remains limited due to the competitive environment in the industry, as well as possible deterioration in the quality of portfolios. The latter, in ACRA’s opinion, may, among other things, encourage companies to take a more balanced approach to taking credit risk and increasing their leverage, which thereby adds incentives to a slowdown of the growth of new business expected by the Agency in the next 12 months.

The focus of competition for major lessors offering large and expensive lease assets and equipment will rather shift towards funding and rental rates, as tight monetary policy is more tangible for relevant lessees. Competition among smaller companies in the retail segment will be driven primarily by their desire to continue, albeit smooth, but relatively noticeable business growth despite periodic shortages of equipment, logistics difficulties, and the growing price of lease assets, which limits the demand for leasing services.

In order to prevent a significant deterioration of conditions for lessees and, accordingly, to contain the slowdown in the growth of new business, lessors may accept a decrease in profitability. However, ACRA believes that the positive effect of a decrease in the portfolio’s growth rate will prevail over the negative impact of lower profitability on the capitalization.

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Analysts

Suren Asaturov
Director, Financial Institutions Ratings Group
+7 (495) 139 04 80, ext. 130
Valeriy Piven
Managing Director, Head of Financial Institutions Ratings Group
+7 (495) 139 04 93
Alla Borisova
Associate Director, Financial Institutions Ratings Group
+7 (495) 139 04 80, ext. 153
Svetlana Panicheva
Head of External Communications
+7 (495) 139 04 80, ext. 169
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