PSBs dominate India's banking system, meaning any failure could jeopardise financial stability, as such, we expect government support will remain forthcoming, said Moody's.
Public sector banks will need external capital of up to Rs 2.1 trillion over the next two years and the most likely source to plug this shortfall will be government support, Moody's Investors Service said on Friday.
According to Moody's, the sharp slowdown in India's economic growth, exacerbated by the virus outbreak, will hurt the asset quality of public sector banks (PSBs) and drive up credit costs.
"We expect to see PSBs' already weak capital buffers to be depleted, with Rs 1.9 trillion - Rs 2.1 trillion ($25 billion - $28 billion) in external capital needed over the next two years to restore loss-absorbing buffers," Moody's vice president and senior credit officer Alka Anbarasu said.
PSBs dominate India's banking system, meaning any failure could jeopardise financial stability, Anbarasu added.
"As such, we expect government support will remain forthcoming," she said.
In a report titled 'Coronavirus fallout will leave banks with capital shortages again', Moody's said asset quality will deteriorate, led by retail and small business loans.
According to Moody's, Indian economy will contract sharply in fiscal year ending March 2021 (fiscal 2020) before returning to growth, though modestly, in fiscal 2021.
"As a result, formation of new non-performing loans (NPLs) will accelerate substantially, driven by the retail and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) segments.
"Although one-time loan restructuring allowed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will prevent a sudden increase in NPLs. NPLs and credit costs will increase in the next two years, hurting PSBs' already weak profitability and depleting their capitalization," it said.
It said, banks will face large capital shortfalls again as credit costs rise.
Of the total capital requirement amount, PSBs will need about Rs 1 trillion to build loan-loss provisions to about 70 per cent of NPLs, which will leave them with enough capacity to grow loans 8-10 per cent annually, faster than the 4 per cent in fiscal 2020.
Moody's said to maintain financial stability, government will continue to provide capital support for PSBs.
Uncertainty surrounding India's economic recovery as well as the ongoing clean-up of balance sheets are making it difficult for most PSBs to raise equity capital from markets.
"This means PSBs will continue to need support from the government to plug their capital shortfalls, and we expect the government to infuse fresh funds into them as it has done in the past.
"If PSBs, which dominate the banking system in India, fail to function properly in the absence of state capital support, the country will face a deepening credit crunch, hampering its economic recovery," Moody's added.
Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters