India’s financial system remains stable due to the improved resilience of the banking sector, but from a contagion risk perspective, if a large housing finance company (HFC) fails, it would impact as much as the failure of a large bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in a report on Thursday.
The bi-annual financial stability report noted that the recent pressure faced by non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) had brought in greater discipline to the sector. The report also pointed out stress in the retail lending segment and suggested exercising caution.
The HFC and NBFC sector is going through a tough time. RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das has said in the past that the central bank is keeping close vigilance on some large players, but it has not extended any credit line as of now.
“Recent developments in the NBFC sector have brought the sector under greater market discipline as the better-performing companies continued to raise funds while those with ALM (asset liability mismatch) and/or asset quality concerns were subjected to higher borrowing costs,” the report said.
The contagion risk caused by NBFCs is also now much less than what it was in September or March 2018.
“The failure of an HFC with the maximum capacity to cause solvency losses to the banking system will lead to a loss of 5.8 per cent of the total tier 1 capital of the banking system and the failure of one bank. The failure of an NBFC with the maximum capacity to cause solvency losses to the banking system will lead to a loss of 2.7 per cent of the total tier 1 capital and the failure of one bank,” it warned.
In September, the failure would have shaved off 8.6 per cent of the tier 1 capital of the banking system.
Under the same hypothetical situation, if a bank with the maximum capacity to cause contagion losses fails, it will lead to a “solvency loss of 5.5 per cent of the total tier 1 capital of the banking system, a liquidity loss of 3 per cent of total liquid assets and the failure of two banks”.
This underscores “the need for greater surveillance over large HFCs/NBFCs”, the report said.
On a standalone basis, though, banks have improved their resilience. The provision coverage ratio of banks rose sharply to 60.6 per cent in March 2019 from 52.4 per cent in September 2018 and 48.3 per cent in March 2018.
Banks are showing improvement in stability with the bulk of the legacy non-performing assets (NPAs) already recognised, and the NPA cycle “seems to have turned around”.
In a baseline scenario, the FSR expects the banking sector’s gross NPA ratio to decline from 9.3 per cent in March 2019 to 9.0 per cent in March 2020.
“Traditional captive investors in government securities, especially banks, have changed their strategies to focus on state development loans, which have the advantage of higher yields and these are increasingly finding their way into their HTM portfolios even as more liquid central government securities are moving elsewhere,” it said. Even mutual funds are now buying state development loans, “prioritising yield pick-up over liquidity.”
Mutual funds are the biggest lender to the system, but they have reduced their investment in commercial papers and debt of NBFCs and HFCs. Consequently, these NBFCs and HFCs are relying more on long-term bank loans for their funding, which could be unsustainable, the report said.