Moody’s Investors Service has revised the outlook for the Indian banking system to “stable” from “negative” on the back of stabilising asset quality and improved capital drive.
The global credit rating agency, in its Banking system outlook for India, observed that the deterioration of asset quality since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has been moderate, and an improving operating environment will support asset quality.
Declining credit costs as a result of improving asset quality will lead to improvements in profitability. The agency assessed that capital will remain above pre-pandemic levels.
Moody’s expects India’s economy to continue to recover in the next 12-18 months, with GDP growing 9.3 per cent in the fiscal year ending March 2022 and 7.9 per cent in the following year.
The agency opined that the pick-up in economic activity will drive credit growth, which it expects to be 10-13 per cent annually. Weak corporate financials and funding constraints at finance companies have been key negative factors for banks but these risks have receded.
Asset quality will be stable
According to Moody’s, the deterioration of asset quality since the onset of the pandemic has been more moderate than it expected despite relatively limited regulatory support for borrowers.
The agency noted that the quality of corporate loans has improved, indicating that banks have recognised and provisioned for all legacy problem loans in this segment.
“The quality of retail loans has deteriorated, but to a limited degree because large-scale job losses have not occurred. We expect asset quality will further improve, leading to decline in credit costs, as economic activity normalises,” Moody’s said.
Raising equity capital
Capital ratios have risen across rated banks in the past year because most have issued new shares, per the agency.
Moody’s said public sector banks’ ability to raise equity capital from the market is particularly credit positive because it reduces their dependence on the government for capital.
However, further increases in capital will be limited because banks will use most of retained earnings to support an acceleration of loan growth, according to the agency.
The agency estimated that banks’ returns on assets will rise as credit costs will decline while banks’ core profitability will be stable.
If interest rates rise, net interest margins will increase, but it will also lead to mark-to-market losses on banks’ large holdings of government securities, it said.