With record overseas borrowings, rupee fall could hurt India Inc

Bloomberg Mumbai | Updated on March 17, 2020 Published on March 17, 2020

The Indian rupee has declined about 4% against the dollar in the last month and it couldn’t come at a much worse time for the companies faced with a record amount of offshore debt due next quarter.

The spread of the coronavirus has caused historic declines in asset prices globally, with investors increasingly bracing for a global recession and a jump in corporate defaults. Indian borrowers had been loading up on foreign currency-denominated debt amid a squeeze in rupee credit markets, and have to repay $7.5 billion of overseas bonds and loans in the April-June period, the most ever in a quarter.

With only limited currency hedges, a weakening rupee means that the burden of such redemptions will increase at a time when a drop in global demand is hurting corporate cash flows and investors are shunning risk. Indian firms have hedged only about 30-40% of their outstanding offshore debt, according to risk advisory firm QuantArt Market Solutions.

The Reserve Bank of India had eased hedging requirements for foreign-currency borrowings by local firms in late 2018, giving India Inc. leeway to go on a record offshore debt binge.

Indian companies are in a tight spot as a lot of debt repayments are due this year, according to Srinivas Puni, a director with QuantArt. The stability of the rupee over the past three quarters had created some complacency in hedging foreign-currency payables.

Published on March 17, 2020
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