Using data analytics for its push into rural markets, L&T Finance Holdings will continue with what it calls the ‘retailisation’ of its loan book, said Dinanath Dubhashi, managing director and CEO. To shield itself against hardening bond yields, the company has now got 60% of its debt priced at fixed rates, he added. Excerpts:
Your loan book has seen good growth. Where is this coming from?
Our loan book growth is about 25%. In our focused book, there is a growth of around 28%. The important numbers are that rural (finance) has grown by 64%, housing has grown by 51% and (in) wholesale, while disbursements have grown very well, we have managed to sell down most of the book and kept our growth to just 13%. So it is leading now to what I call the retailisation of our book. Rural plus housing was 34% (as a share of the loan book) in FY17; that has now gone to 43% and hopefully, by next year, we should come close to 50%. Largely, disbursements are equally good everywhere because we are improving our competitive position. As far as book growth is concerned, you will see the largest book growth in rural and housing.
Disbursements of micro loans have jumped 200%. How?
To put things into perspective, I would suggest you don’t go by percentages. Let me remind you that the last five months of FY17 were the post-demonetisation months in which hardly any disbursements were happening. So it is largely a base effect. Despite that, we must say that the business is doing very well. Not only micro loans, overall in rural India, the availability and reliability of data is improving and a company which has the tools and the belief to use that data to identify customers and lend to those customers, has a great scope for growth. Rural lending used to be largely intuitive. Today, it is possible to digitise all the relevant information to get all this data into an enterprise data warehouse and use that analytics to take very informed and localised decisions. If two years ago, I would lend more in case of good rainfall and less in case of poor rainfall, today I can take a district-wise decision as to how to spread the lending. That has really differentiated our growth.
What would be the average ticket size of your housing loans?
In retail housing, the average ticket size is about Rs 40 lakh.
Are you also looking at affordable housing loans as a key category?
We are looking, but, geographically, for housing, we have more of a presence in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai and Surat. So we don’t think affordable housing will be a large part of our portfolio, even though we are there. Our chief focus is the R30-50 lakh segment, which is the lower-income to middle-income sort of segment.
How are higher yields in the bond market impacting you?
I would answer that in two ways. One is that our economists saw this rise well in advance and we started moving to medium-term fixed-rate instruments six months back. So most definitely, while yields have hardened, there is an impact. Compared to last year, there has been a reduction. From the last quarter, when it was 8.11%, it has gone to 8.2%. But, much more important is that I am now sitting on a fairly large positive gap. Around 60% of my debt today is fixed-rate, as compared to 25% of my assets being fixed-rate. Now, that doesn’t mean my costs won’t go up. It will certainly go up as more and more loans come for repricing, but I will be in a position to pass them on. Second, a more strategic side to this is that interest-rate cycles will come and go and about two years ago, we identified fee income as a good means of tackling them. Our NIMs plus fee income is at 6.9%, which last year was 6.5%. We intend to maintain that around 6.7-6.9%.
So that means we can expect you to hike rates as yields rise?
Actually, for our home loans we have increased rates by 15 basis points (bps). In our infra loans, we have taken an increase of 25 bps.