Banks to restructure a record Rs 1 lakh crore worth of loans – By Manju AB

Banks are in hectic parleys with borrowers to restructure over Rs 1 lakh crore of loans in the quarter (Jan-Mar) before the financial year draws to a close. Bhushan Steel and Bajaj Hindustan are among the big loan accounts where discussions are underway for a restructuring during the quarter.

From April 1, 2015,  Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has taken away the special dispensation that allowed banks to restructure accounts and still call them standard loans. Restructured account is where a bank extends the repayment tenure, in certain cases waives off a certain portion of the interest costs, etc, so that the loan is not classified as a bad loan or a non-performing asset (NPA).

A senior banker told dna, “Many NPAs are showing up with the government delaying payments to their vendors who are in turn customers of the banks, and also other mid-sized companies who undertake government contracts. In many cases, the government and other public sector enterprises have failed to adhere to their payment schedule and it has resulted in companies being unable to repay to the banks.”

According to bankers, most of the restructured loans will continue to come from mid-corporate companies in the iron and steel category, small/medium enterprises (SMEs) and clients dealing with commodities, among others, and the infrastructure companies led by power firms.

Among the two large loan accounts being restructured, Bhushan Steel’s loan account stands at Rs 39,000 crore and Bajaj Hindustan over Rs 6,000 crore.

All banks, including private sector lenders, have given a guidance for a higher pipeline of bad debt with stress being maximum in the mid-corporate and small and medium enterprises.

Deep Mukherjee, director, India Ratings, said the withdrawal of regulatory forbearance could persuade banks to go on a massive restructuring drive by picking out the weak companies that need to be restructured with the timeline of March 31 in mind.

“The RBI guidelines also incentivise banks that quick implementation of a restructuring package would enable them to benefit from the existing special asset classification of such restructured accounts. Thus, there is sufficient economic motivation for banks to undertake the Rs 60,000-100,000 crore worth of loan restructuring, where accounts whose performance may deteriorate could be addressed at one go, enabling banks to start FY16 on a relatively clean slate,” said Mukherjee.

Another senior banker said, “Banks will be exercising the restructuring window by picking out all the weak cases. But we need to be cautious as they also need to revive or it is going to take a hit on our books later on.”
India’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) said it has a restructuring pipeline of Rs 5,500 crore in the March quarter.

ICICI Bank management in a concall after the third quarter results, said, “Our restructuring pipeline for the fourth quarter that is January to March 2015 quarter is estimated at about Rs 2,300 crore, higher than the Rs 1,755 crore that bank restructured in the third quarter. Given the prolonged economic slowdown and uneven economic recovery, banks including us have witnessed slippages from the restructured portfolios.” For the bank, most of the additions to bad loans and restructured category have crept in from the SME sector and the corporate book.

Among other banks, Bank of India’s restructuring pipeline is over Rs 1,000 crore while Indian Overseas Bank has got Rs 2,000 crore worth of loans to be recasted.

Many banks, according to rating agencies, may end up restructuring higher debt than their projections. But if companies are quick to pick up the relief and revive their companies, it will be an exercise that would not go in vain for both the lenders and bankers.

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