Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the determinants of the use of loan loss provisions (LLPs) to smooth income by banks in South Africa. More specifically, the authors examine the influence of ownership, IFRS disclosure rules and economic fluctuation on the income smoothing behaviour of South African banks while controlling for the traditional determinants of bank income smoothing via LLPs.
Design/methodology/approach: The study employs fixed effect regression methodology to estimate the determinants of discretionary LLPs.
Findings: The authors find that South African banks do not use LLPs to smooth income when they are: under-capitalised, have large non-performing loans and have a moderate ownership concentration. On the other hand, income smoothing is pronounced when South African banks are rather more profitable during economic boom periods, well-capitalised during boom periods and is pronounced among banks that adopt IFRS and among banks with a Big 4 auditor. The authors also find that banks use LLPs for capital management purposes, and bank provisioning is procyclical with economic fluctuations.
Practical implications: Bank supervisors in South Africa should monitor the bank provisioning practices in South Africa closely to ensure that LLPs are not used as a substitute for bank capital. Banks in South Africa should not use sufficient provisioning as a substitute for sufficient bank capital. Second, the evidence for procyclical bank provisioning shows that provisioning by South African banks reinforce the current state of the economy and might compel bank supervisors in South Africa to consider the adoption of a dynamic provisioning system that is already adopted by bank supervisors in Spain, Peru, Uruguay, Colombia and Bolivia.
Originality/value: Bank income smoothing is an important issue because it has implications for banking stability and accounting transparency. There are few studies on bank income smoothing for emerging economies particularly in Africa where there are substantial differences in ownership and accounting rules. This is the first South African study to examine the influence of disclosure rules, ownership and economic cycle fluctuations on bank income smoothing behaviour via LLPs.