The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) new measure to tackle the pile of mounting bad loans in the banking system is not expected to be a game changer, say many analysts and bankers.
They say the new norms (Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets)) address some of the issues faced in earlier Strategic Debt Restructuring(SDR), where banks were unable to sell off the assets after taking management control of a company and converting debt into equity.
However, this scheme also raises doubts on evergreening of loans by banks, the practice of giving a new loan to repay an old one.
Rating agency ICRA said the move might help the reducing the reported level of gross non-performing loans by 30-100 basis points from the current 7.7 per cent as on end-March, after a lag of one year (following satisfactory performance of the sustainable debt portion).
At the start loans worth Rs 75,000-80,000 crore might be taken up for deep recast under new norms, analysts said.
The challenge pointed out by bankers is that this scheme is only for projects that are operational. So, several projects in the power and the infrastructure space will be out.
Under the new scheme, banks will have to divide the existing debt of a company into ‘sustainable’ (the share which can be serviced by the company even if cash flow remains the same as now) and ‘unsustainable’. An independent oversight agency will ascertain the economic viability of a project and the resolution plan.
Senior officials with the Indian Banks Association said they’d work at fleshing out the working arrangement. “RBI will have a dominant role in the entire process. Nothing will happen without its blessings,” said one.
The resolution plan needs to ensure that the unsustainable portion of the debt should be converted into equity/redeemable cumulative optionally convertible preference shares. The scheme also limits lenders from granting any fresh moratorium on interest or principal repayment or reduction of interest rate for servicing of the sustainable debt portion.
This distinction between sustainable and unsustainable debt might also lead to problems and can cause limitations, believe analysts. “The success of the scheme will crucially depend on the ability of banks to segregate stressed loans and the willingness of banks to absorb haircuts on the unsustainable portion,” said Dhananjay Sinha, head of institutional research at Emkay Global Financial Services.
Unlike the earlier norms, here the promoters are allowed to have management control. “Existing promoters of large borrower companies are allowed to continue if they give up their stakes in the same proportion as that of Part B (unsustainable portion) to total dues. This will create a moral hazard as equity writeoff always precedes debt. The guidelines should benefit companies which are under severe stress and have very high leverage,” said a research report by domestic broking house Religare.
However, bankers do expect a smoother resolution with this as compared to the earlier SDR norms. However, its impact will have to be tested over period of time to see how effective this tool had been in tackling bad loans problems being faced by the banking industry.
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