International rating agency Moody’s on Wednesday retained its negative outlook on the domestic banking system, citing high leverage in the corporate sector that may prevent any meaningful recovery in asset quality.
“Our outlook for the country’s banking system remains negative, as it has been since November 2011.
“The negative outlook reflects our view that high leverage in the corporate sector could prevent any meaningful recovery in asset quality, notwithstanding a moderate rebound in economic growth,” the agency Moody’s Investors Service said in a note issued from Singapore.
The report further said continuing poor asset quality, wherein the NPAs levels are set to touch 4.5 per cent of the system, will require continued provisioning and strengthened capital buffers. After provisions, profitability of public sector banks will generate insufficient internal capital for loan growth, the report added.
The negative outlook pertains mainly to the public sector banks as they represent more than 70 per cent of total banking system assets. These banks have experienced higher growth rates in non-performing and restructured loans, as well as greater weakening in profits, than their private sector peers, Moody’s said.
The report says while these trends are unlikely to improve for public sector banks, in contrast, private sector banks have stronger margins, reserves, and capital levels, which serve as buffers against conditions that remain challenging.
On growth, which inched up to surprising 5.7 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal after logging in sub-5 per cent growth in the past two fiscals, Moody’s said GDP will pick up moderately this fiscal, but remains constrained by the high interest rates due to inflation.
“Our growth estimates reflect expectations for a cyclical recovery and do not incorporate assumptions of reforms which may be implemented by the new government. We expect that some policies may be formulated within the 12-18 months horizon of this outlook, but it will take longer to see an impact on the real economy.
“Our base-case forecast for GDP is 5 per cent for the current fiscal and 5.6 percent for FY16, compared to 4.7 per cent in FY14 and 4.5 per cent in the year before,” Moody’s said.
This is one of the lowest by any agency for this fiscal as even last week the World Bank has pegged 5.6 percent GDP print for 2014-15. While the government forecast is 5.5-6 percent, the Reserve Bank has put a conservative 5.5 percent GDP growth for this fiscal.