India’s bad loans hit record 9.5 lakh crore; here’s why it is worrying

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Updated: October 11, 2017 11:07 AM

India's bad loans have hit a record high of 9.5 lakh crore at the end of June 2017. We take a look at how bad India's bad loan problem has been since 2011.

Kotak Institutional Equities, banksA loan becomes non-performing or bad when a borrower stops repaying either the principal amount or the interest. (Image: Reuters)

India’s bad loans are getting worse. Country’s bad loans have hit a record high of 9.5 lakh crore at the end of June 2017, Reuters said in a report quoting the Reserve Bank of India data accessed through the RTI. According to the report, banks’ total stressed loans – including non-performing and restructured or rolled over loans – rose 4.5 percent in the six months to end-June. The bad loans in India rose from 7.7 lakh crore at the end of March 2017 to 9.5 lakh crore at the end of June 2017.

According to the latest available World Bank nonperforming loans data, India’s loan defaults were at staggering 9.2% of the total gross loans in 2016, second-highest in Asia after Pakistan (11.3%). A loan becomes non-performing or bad when a borrower stops repaying either the principal amount or the interest. According to the data on bank nonperforming loans by different countries maintained by the World Bank, India’s picture is not just bad but it is also worrying. India’s bad loans have surged drastically in the past six years. In 2011, India had just 2.67% of bad loans, which surged to 5.88% in 2015. The sharpest rise came in 2016 when the bad loans shot up to 9.18%.

In India, power, steel, road infrastructure and textiles sectors are the biggest loan defaulters of state-owned banks. According to CARE Ratings, the gross non-performing assets of state-owned banks surged 56.4% to Rs 614,872 crore in 2016. In this respect, India fares worse than not only China but other countries as well, including the US and the UK. However, Pakistan’s bad loan percentage is bigger than that of India.

According to IMF financial soundness indicators for July-September quarter for the last year 2016, the percentage of bad loans for Pakistan stood at 11.3% followed by India at 8.6%. Rest of the countries — China, Japan, USA and UK reported their bad loans below 2%. Even Sri Lanka’s bad loan was below 3%. Countries like Russia (9.65%), Hungary (9.97%), Nigeria (11.73%), Ukraine (30.37%), Greece (36.99%) reported higher bad loans than India.

Source: IMF financial soundness indicators

Most economists feel that there are two main reasons behind India’s increasing bad loans: first, slower revenue growth; second, higher interest rates. According to the World Bank, India, on an average, takes over four years to declare a company insolvent, which increases the risk of not recovering that amount, while China and the United States take less than half of that time. India only recovers 25% for every dollar, while China recovers 36%.

The road ahead

To deal with India’s rising bad debts, India introduced Insolvency and Bankruptcy (IBC) Code in May 2016, consolidating the existing framework by creating a single law for insolvency and bankruptcy, which is expected to ensure time-bound settlement. The effects of the law have already started emerging. Corporate giants like Jaypee Infratech, Essar Steel, Reliance Communication Ltd and start-up Stayzilla are already facing the heat of the IBC law.

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