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Fitch revises outlook of SBI, 8 other banks to negative

SBI is 57.9 per cent state-owned and has a much broader policy role than peers.

PTI | New Delhi |

Fitch Ratings on Monday said it has revised the outlook to negative from stable of nine Indian banks, including State Bank of India, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank, following lowering of India’s sovereign rating outlook due to impact of coronavirus pandemic on the economy.

The rating agency revised the outlook for Export-Import Bank of India (EXIM), SBI, Bank of Baroda, Bank of Baroda (New Zealand), Bank of India, Canara Bank, Punjab National Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank while affirming their ratings.

At the same time, Fitch has affirmed IDBI Bank Ltd’s (IDBI) rating, while maintaining the outlook at negative.

“The rating actions follow Fitch’s revision of the outlook on the ‘BBB-‘ rating on India to negative from stable on June 18, 2020 due to the impact of the escalating coronavirus pandemic on India’s economy,” it said in a statement.

Fitch said the ratings of all the nine Indian banks are support-driven and anchored to their respective sovereign country rating. “They are based on Fitch’s assessment of high to moderate probability of extraordinary state support for these banks, which takes into account our assessment of the sovereign’s ability and propensity to provide extraordinary support.”

The negative outlook on India’s sovereign rating, it said, reflects an increasing strain on the state’s ability to provide extraordinary support, due to the sovereign’s limited fiscal space and the significant deterioration in fiscal metrics due to challenges from COVID-19 pandemic.

“The rating action does not affect the banks’ Viability Ratings (VRs),” it said. “EXIM does not have a VR as its role as a policy bank makes an assessment of its standalone credit profile less meaningful.”

While EXIM is of high strategic and systemic importance due to its unique policy role, SBI is the largest Indian bank with nearly 25 per cent market share in system assets and deposits.

SBI is 57.9 per cent state-owned and has a much broader policy role than peers.

“SBI is highly likely to receive extraordinary state support, if required, due to its very high systemic importance,” it said.

For ICICI and AXIS Bank, Fitch said it expects a moderate probability of extraordinary state support for these banks, due to their systemic importance, market position and private ownership.

“The probability of extraordinary state support for the two large private banks will be lower than for large state banks, which are likely to have priority due to the sovereign’s constrained finances,” the agency said.

The other banks whose outlook was lowered too have “high systemic importance” stemming from their significant market share, majority government ownership and role in policy lending.

On keeping outlook unchanged for IDBI, it said this reflects expectation that the state’s propensity to provide extraordinary support to IDBI may diminish following the government’s proposal to sell its stake in the bank and dispose of part of its stake in the lender’s majority shareholder, Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC).