Focus Will Be On G-Secs: Fitch

Mumbai, Sept 22: | Updated: Sep 23 2003, 05:30am hrs
Fitch Ratings says that going forward, the spotlight in the banking sector is likely to shift to the market risk of the large government securities (G-Secs) portfolio held by banks, where an increase in interest rates could trigger value erosions as banks mark-to-market their portfolios.

The entry of new participants in the banking, insurance and mutual funds sectors, and the creation of new institutions for trading, clearing and settlements have increased the depth of the domestic debt market and encouraged greater participation in the derivatives and forex markets. However, Fitch warns that weakening development financial institutions, vulnerable non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) and the inadequately supervised co-operative banks pose risks to the financial system.

All in all, the rating agency, in a report, states that the economic reforms initiated by the Indian government in the early nineties have considerably improved the health and the outlook of the countrys financial sector.

It further states that the reported net non-performing loans (NPLs) of Indian banks has improved over the years and although the effective NPL level, adjusted for internationally comparable norms (Indian banks will move to the 90-day norm for NPL classification from March 2004, could be double the reported figure of 4.5 per cent as at end-March 2003, the industry is well placed to address such key issues.

Fitch says improved credit standards, an increased focus on recoveries and the enactment of Securitisation And Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI) are among the reforms that will help Indian banks. According to the report, the reforms have led to greater operational autonomy for public sector banks, application and a gradual tightening of capital adequacy, asset classification and income recognition, as well as increased disclosure levels.

Moreover, systemic support to banks, in the form of re-capitalisation of public sector banks in the 1990s, or the merger of weak commercial banks with larger public sector banks, has been repeatedly demonstrated. The pattern of support extended by the government to troubled banks and financial institutions highlights an emphasis on ensuring repayment of retail and foreign liabilities first.

Fitch also believes that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has helped maintain the stability of the Indian banking system through prompt corrective actions. It is now migrating to a risk-based supervision system, and is charting a roadmap for transition to the new Basel Capital Accord by March 2007. RBI has played a supportive role to maintain confidence in the banking system without providing any guarantee to support banks, says Fitch.