Indian Banking Sector Amid the Corona Crash - 10 Points to Know - Views on News from Equitymaster

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  • Apr 6, 2020 - Indian Banking Sector Amid the Corona Crash - 10 Points to Know

Indian Banking Sector Amid the Corona Crash - 10 Points to Know

Apr 6, 2020

Most sectors in the Indian share markets have been drowning in a sea of red due to the crash led by coronavirus outbreak. The biggest blow, however, has been felt by the banking sector.

The sector was already reeling under pressure due multiple factors for quite some time. And things started getting worse since the start of 2020.

Here's a timeline showing some major events that happened in the Indian banking sector and led to the slowdown we are witnessing in the past few months...

  1. Mounting Pile of Bad Loans: Indian banks have for years worked to beat down mounting piles of bad loans of the sort that led to the Yes Bank fallout. The ratio of gross non-performing assets (NPAs) at Indian banks rose to 11% in 2018 from about 2% in 2008, before starting to ease off.
  2. IL&FS Crisis Kicks Off the Downward Spiral: Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) were heavily positioned in the Indian banking and financial space, and stocks in the sector witnessed maximum inflows during good times. However, they started noticing cracks with consistent negative performance in the banking and financial sector and started moving out of them. The downward spiral for these sectors began since IL&FS crisis camec out into the open.
  3. Credit Quality Deteriorates: After being the most preferred sector for over half a decade, things started changing for stocks in the banking sector since 2020. This came as the sector witnessed a double blow in the form of YES Bank fallout and prolonged economic slowdown. And all this only led to credit quality deterioration for banks.
  4. YES Bank Crash: The Yes Bank crisis and the sight of Rana Kapoor being taken to court in early March came in as one of the worst months for India's banking sector.
  5. Bailout for Yes Bank: To save Yes Bank, a range of Indian lenders led by the State Bank of India (SBI), infused funds in return for an equity stake. The episode came as a jolt to investors, who worried it could exacerbate vulnerabilities in the financial system.
  6. Panic Selling Amid SC Order: Then came another blow. Before the dust settled on Yes Bank, the Supreme Court ruled that telecom operators must pay dues worth billions owed to the government. This caused panic-selling in bank stocks due to their heavy exposure to the telecoms sector.
  7. Coronavirus Threat: The challenges now facing India's banking sector have reached another order of magnitude due to the coronavirus threat to the economy. Banking stocks have been among the hardest hit.
  8. Sharp Fall for BSE Bankex: The BSE Bankex has fallen about 46% so far this year, outpacing the 32% fall in the BSE Sensex. Shares of Axis Bank and IndusInd Bank have lost the most during this period.
  9. Relief Measures: Owing to all these shocks, banks have sought various relief measures. On 27 March 2020, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) came out all guns blazing to arrest a potential slowdown caused by coronavirus (Covid-19). It did not just lower the cash reserve ratio (CRR) by 1% to 3% but also cut the repo rate by 0.75%. Also, there is a three-month moratorium on payment of loan installments.
  10. PSB Merger: Then came the major announcement effective from 1 April 2020. First announced in August 2019, the government's ambitious plan to merge 10 state-owned banks into four came into effect from 1 April 2020. The move, aimed at strengthening the banking system and creating more large institutions with size and scale, has seen...
    • Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India merged into Punjab National Bank,
    • Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank merged into Union Bank of India,
    • Allahabad Bank merged with Indian Bank, and
    • Syndicate Bank amalgamated into Canara Bank

So, that were some top pointers on what the Indian banking sector has been going through amid the coronavirus led stock market crash.

I reached out to Tanushree Banerjee, who is closely tracking the banking sector in the current scenario. Here's her view on the sector...

  • The Covid-19 lockdown has hit cash flows of both individual borrowers and corporates. This, in turn, will impact their loan repayment capability.

    The RBI's repo rate cut came as a temporary lifeline for Indian companies with debt on books. It will offer both companies and retail borrowers some breather. If banks use this phase judiciously, it may save the NPA ratios from worsening significantly.

    However, only the banks that have adequate capital and provisioning cushion may be able to tide over the economic crisis. Eventually, another round of consolidation in private sector banks, like the one after 2002, cannot be ruled out.

Tanushree's latest StockSelect recommendation is one such midcap bank.

You can read the entire report here (requires subscription).

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Happy Investing!

Rini Mehta

Rini Mehta is a keen follower of the stock markets and economy. At Equitymaster, she covers daily stock market moves and broader market trends across Indian and global markets.

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Dec 7, 2021 12:27 PM