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Retail loan growth slows as consumption, auto sales fall

The Financial Express logo The Financial Express 19-04-2019 Shritama Bose
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Growth in banks' retail loan portfolios have been on a downward trend since November 2018 amid slowing consumption demand and falling auto sales, showed data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). At 16.7% year-on-year (y-o-y), growth in retail loan outstandings in February 2019 was significantly slower than the 20.4% growth recorded a year ago.

Bankers and analysts agree that a slowdown in auto sales has weighed on retail loan growth. PK Gupta, managing director, retail and digital banking, State Bank of India (SBI), said, ?In auto loans, there has been a slowdown. The sales of auto companies have been lower and, consequently, growth at banks also has been slower. But, growth in personal loans has been almost the same.?

Growth in auto loans slowed to 8% y-o-y in February 2019 from 10% a year ago. Analysts expect demand in this category to return in the coming months. In a recent report, Kotak Institutional Equities wrote that demand for commercial vehicles will likely pick up pace in the first half of FY20 on account of pre-buying due to new BS-VI norms.

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Bankers are betting on other categories instead. ?We are expecting about 14% growth in retail in FY20. A lot of it should come from housing and personal loan growth,? said SBI?s Gupta. ?We believe these two categories can continue to grow in the range of 16-18%.?

Within the retail segment, unsecured lending and credit cards had done much of the heavy lifting for banks in the last two years. According to a recent report by Nomura, for large banks, unsecured credit has been contributing 15-22% of incremental growth. However, this too is not going as steady as it was a few months ago. Credit card outstandings grew 27% y-o-y in February 2019, down from 34% in December 2018. In another category of unsecured lending ? consumer-durable loans ? banks have ceded almost the entire market to non-bank financiers. In February 2019, banks? exposure to consumer-durable loans dropped 76% y-o-y to a mere `4,529 crore.

Corporate loan growth in recent months has been driven by increased lending to non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), where bank exposure shot up by 48% between January 2018 and January 2019 and maintained a similar growth rate in February 2019. This rate is unlikely to sustain for long, bankers say, as there are few opportunities left to fund good NBFCs.

SBI expects corporate loans to grow 13-14% in FY20, led by government spending. ?In the private sector, capacity utilisation is increasing in some companies. We could also see enhanced working capital requirement,? Gupta observed.

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