Will credit growth pick up as NPA decline?

Although NPAs will improve, lenders will focus on improving their own financial health rather than aggressively extend credit

Salil Panchal
Published: Jan 1, 2020 10:17:02 AM IST
Updated: Jan 1, 2020 02:14:43 PM IST

Life is not a template and neither is mine. Like several who have worked as journalists, I am a generalist in my over two decade experience across print, global news wires and dotcom firms. But there has been one underlying theme in each phase; life gave me the chance to observe and tell a story -- from early days tracking a securities scam to terror attacks and some of India's most significant court trials. Besides writing, I have jumped fences to become an entrepreneur, as an investment advisor -- and also taught the finer aspects of business journalism to young minds. At Forbes India, I also keep an eye on some of its proprietary specials like the Rich list, GenNext and Celebrity lists. An alumnus of Xavier Institute of Communications and H.R College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, I have worked for organisations such as Agence France-Presse, Business Standard, The Financial Express and The Times of India prior to this.

g_125817_ilfs_280x210.jpgImage: Francis Mascarenhas/ Reuters

The problem of non performing assets (NPAs) that has affected banks from lending for over five years appears to be getting resolved. The Financial Stability Report of the RBI in June 2019 noted: “...the gross NPA ratio for commercial banks may decline to 9 percent in March 2020 from 9.3 percent in March 2019.”

This might encourage banks to start lending more. But India is in the middle of a consumption slowdown, where not only is the demand for goods and services, but also income levels and the capacity to spend are weak. Corporates are reluctant to invest in capex. Almost every large bank we have spoken to indicates that the economy is still far from credit growth. Even though some of the private lenders might be in an improved situation to lend, a lot of the others aren’t. Gross bank credit grew by 8.07 percent in November data by the RBI, while growth was in double digits in mid-2018 and mid-2019.

The collapse of IL&FS has created a crisis of confidence, while at least 10 public sector banks are in the midst of mergers, preventing them from taking calls on risky lending. So even while NPAs will decline in 2020, banks and NBFCs are likely to continue to focus on improving their financial health instead of extending credit.

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(This story appears in the 17 January, 2020 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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