The RBI has tightened its rules around bank loan defaults, seeking to push larger loan defaulters toward bankruptcy courts and abolishing half a dozen existing loan-restructuring mechanisms, in its latest bid to accelerate resolution of the bad loans problem at Indian banks.
New framework to resolve bad loans
After enacting its first comprehensive bankruptcy regime in 2016, the government last year gave the central bank more powers to push lenders to deal with the nearly $150 billion in troubled debt at banks, which has stymied new lending and slowed economic growth.
Banks will have to file for insolvency proceedings against loan defaulters with Rs 20 billion ($311 million) or more if a resolution plan is not implemented within 180 days of the initial occurrence of default. Any failure on the part of banks to meet the prescribed timelines, or any actions they take to conceal the actual status of accounts or evergreen stressed accounts, will expose banks to potential monetary penalties and other actions.
It also tightened rules around resolution plans, saying any such process involving restructuring or change in ownership for large accounts with loans of Rs 1 billion or more will need independent credit evaluation by credit rating agencies that are authorised by the RBI. Loans of Rs 5 billion or more will need two such independent evaluators.
The RBI said all prior schemes, including the popular Strategic Debt Restructuring Scheme, the Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets, and the Corporate Debt Restructuring Scheme, will be withdrawn with immediate effect. “All accounts, including such accounts where any of the schemes have been invoked but not yet implemented, shall be governed by the revised framework”, the RBI said.
Some of the current loan restructuring rules have been criticised for helping to evergreen bad loans. The debt for equity swap programme, one of the central bank’s most popular plans, has had little success, with creditor banks struggling to find new buyers for the companies they tried taking over by exchanging part of the debt for equity.