Several companies are opting for corporate debt restructuring

Concerned over rising bad loans, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on Monday, asked banks to take steps to manage their non-performing assets (NPAs), which have grown on account of economic downturn.

“NPAs have grown at an uncomfortable and unacceptable rate in the past couple of years. The RBI has recently advised the selected banks to take necessary steps for appropriate NPA management. I hope the banks concerned will act on the advice of the RBI,” he said.

The banks, he added, “have to tread cautiously in the risks confronting the banking sector, especially the risks arising out of the asset quality, market volatility and the global downturn.''

The Minister talked about rising bad loans of the banking sector at a function to launch the 4001st branch of the Bank of India (BoI). Mr. Mukherjee inaugurated the branch at Manipur by pressing a button from here.

NPAs of public sector banks stood at about 3.3 per cent of the assets in 2011-12 as against 2.3 per cent a year ago.

Several companies are opting for corporate debt restructuring (CDR) to tide over the difficult financial situation in the backdrop of slowdown.

Later talking to reporters, Financial Services Secretary D. K. Mittal said that while NPAs were a concern, there was ‘nothing to panic'.

“NPAs is not something which means that assets are lost. It only means that these asset is not able to pay me for 90 days,” he said adding that recovery by banks in the last quarter of 2011-12 was highest ever.

When asked about segments where there were maximum bad loans, Mr. Mittal said 7-8 sectors, including power and distribution companies (discoms), civil aviation and textiles were under large stress.

He said real estate lending by the banking sector had been restricted for quite sometime. “So the real estate sector is managing its resources by not borrowing from the banking sector, but outside the banking sector,” he added.

The Secretary emphasised that the Indian banking system was much more robust than in Europe.

“To say that the Indian banking sector is at a difficult stage is not fair. It is much sounder than what is there in the European banking system,” he said.

He further said the NPAs were generated in the banking system and there was no scope for ‘window dressing'.

“NPA is across the board and we are trying to manage it, but nothing to panic.''

While addressing the function, the Finance Minister, said net NPAs of Bank of Indai had increased from Rs.1,945 crore (0.91 per cent) in March, 2011, to Rs.3,656 crore (1.47 per cent) in March, 2012.

However, neither Mr. Mukherjee nor Mr. Mittal named the banks which had been advised by the RBI on the NPAs.

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