Malaysian banks’ dirty habit

CIMB, Maybank and RHB are heavily invested in the coal sector, putting our climate at risk

February 2020

While other banks are getting out of coal because of the climate-related and reputational risks associated with the industry, Malaysia’s largest banks, Maybank, CIMB and RHB remain heavily invested in coal. 

  • In the ten years from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2019, CIMB, Maybank and RHB provided US$4.9B to coal through loans and bonds to corporate entities and projects.
  • CIMB is the worst offender, providing over US$2.6B to coal, while Maybank provided US$1.8B and RHB provided US$435M.

The lending doesn’t seem to be slowing down with CIMB and Maybank both considering providing finance to the controversial Jawa 9 and 10 project in Indonesia.


Findings

CIMB, Maybank and RHB’s finance to coal from 2010 to 2019

BankSectorBond Arrangement (US$M)Loans (US$M)Total (US$M)
CIMBCoal$2,445$240$2,685
MaybankCoal$1,291$507$1,797
RHBCoal$180$256$435
Total Coal$4,917

Concerns with Investing in Coal


We cannot afford to expand the coal industry any longer.  Scientific experts such as Climate Analytics have stated that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, OECD countries must be out of coal power by 2030 while the rest of the world must be out of coal power by 2040.

The financial sector has recognised this issue and is beginning to shift. As of October 2019, 45 major international banks have adopted or updated a policy restricting coal financing. A good example of these restrictions is demonstrated by French bank Crédit Agricole. The bank has committed to fully phase out of coal, including by ending businesses with companies planning to develop new thermal coal projects (including coal power, mining and infrastructure). In 2019, Singaporean banks, DBS, UOB and OCBC, put in place policies to end their lending to coal power projects.

Malaysian banks cannot afford to be behind the times. Their current lending to coal described above exposes the banks to transitional climate risk owing to international efforts to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. According to the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, to meet those goals, We have no room to build anything that emits CO2 emissions.”

Observing these risks, Bank Negara Malaysia (Malaysia’s Central Bank) has urged banks to take action.  However, the banks do not seem to be taking steps to change their policies and practices.

Moreover, in choosing to consider financing Jawa 9 and 10 CIMB and Maybank are putting their reputations at risk. This coal power station threatens to harm the health of Indonesians, increasing air pollution in Jakarta and neighbouring areas and affecting their livelihoods.  It has also been estimated that Jawa 9 and 10 would cause over 4,700 premature deaths during its operating lifetime. 

In continuing to invest in coal when other financial institutions are abandoning it, Malaysian banks are at risk of being left to prop up a dying industry.

Recommendations


  • CIMB and Maybank should immediately withdraw the Jawa 9 and 10 coal power project in Indonesia, given the reputational and financial risks associated with the project.
  • CIMB, RHB and Maybank should release policies ruling out investments in projects and companies involved in the expansion of the coal industry, and targets for the reduction of exposure to fossil fuels consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • Bank Negara Malaysia should advise Malaysia’s banks to exit the coal sector in line with the previous recommendation and regulate when banks do not demonstrate meaningful progress.

Methodology

Market Forces consulted a database of over 28,000 transactions compiled and maintained by IJGlobal, a leading online energy and infrastructure finance data service.

Market Forces identified 11 transactions which reached financial close on or between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019, wherein one or more of CIMB, Maybank or RHB provided loans or arranged bonds for the coal sector (including power, mining and transportation).

These transactions include project and corporate finance transactions, as well as primary financings, refinancings and asset acquisitions.

The financed amounts presented in this study represent the sum of loan and/or bond arrangement amounts (as at the date of financial close) attributed to each bank across all identified transactions. All financed amounts are reported in US Dollars (USD) unless stated otherwise.