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Divesting majority stake in PSBs will be 'credit negative'

Divesting majority stake in PSBs will be ‘credit negative’
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Divesting majority stake in PSBs will be ‘credit negative’

Highlights

Ratings agency Crisil says banking sector and its stability important for govt

Mumbai: Divesting majority stake in state-run lenders by the government will be 'credit negative' for such public sector banks (PSBs), a domestic ratings agency warned on Thursday. Many of the entities where the government is mulling selling off majority stake as per reports have a weak credit profile, Icra Ratings said, adding a move to reduce the public ownership will be hurtful.

These six lenders are primarily supported by sovereign ownership and the ensuing stable deposit base, the agency said.

It said there are media reports suggesting a possible divestment of majority stakes in few PSBs that were left out of consolidation exercise last year.

It can be noted that some banks like UCO Bank, Bank of Maharashtra and Punjab and Sind Bank have been left out of the consolidation process. There have also been suggestions to make these banks operate as limited-area small finance banks, while employee unions have been opposing any such moves.

A stake sale can help the government meet its ambitious divestment targets and also save it from future capital infusions, it said. The banking sector and its stability will continue to remain important to government, and the need is to identify strong candidates while identifying the new shareholders, it said.

"The financial profile of these PSBs is very weak and the standalone profiles of these banks could be low within investment grades rating given their weak asset quality, profitability, capital and solvency profile," the agency's group head for financial sector ratings Karthik Srinivasan said.

He added that the liability profile for these banks will become a key monitorable in immediate term as the agency feels that the deposits could be 'highly sensitive' to the banks' ownership.

The existing ratings are notched up from the standalone credit profile and going forward, the ratings on these PSBs would reflect their standalone credit profile depending on their new ownership of these banks, the agency said.

As per the agency's estimates, cumulatively these banks reported losses of Rs 1.08 lakh crore during FY 2016-2020 and the government had to infuse Rs 76,600 crore in capital during this period, and the gross non-performing assets ratio for these banks stood at a high 15.5 per cent as on March 31, 2020.

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