IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


8th June, 2022 Economy

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  • The National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd. (NARCL), set up to take over large bad loans of more than ₹500 crore from banks, will pick up the first set of such non-performing assets (NPAs) in July - Finance Ministry.


What is a ‘bad bank’?

  • A ‘bad bank’ is a financial entity set up to acquire NPAs from banks and resolve them.
  • The bank, which sells the stressed assets to the bad bank, is now relieved of the burden of the bad loans. It can now focus instead on growing its business by advancing fresh loans to borrowers requiring credit.
  • The cleaner balance sheet also makes it relatively easier for the lender to raise fresh capital, if required.


When does a loan turn 'bad'?

The banking sector is the backbone of the economy as it provides credit to fund different economic activities. Sometimes these loans turn into bad loans. Bad loans, also called as non-performing assets (NPA’s) are those loans made by a bank on which the borrower has not made interest or principal repayments on time. These loans are classified as non-performing and are at the verge of or already in the state of default. These bad loans negatively impact a bank’s balance sheet.

Thus, several leading economists feel “bad bank” could be a good idea to free the banks from the mounting burden of the NPAs.


  • The NARCL, which is being set up by lenders proposes to take over the fully provisioned stressed assets of about ₹90,000 crore in the first phase.
  • The minimum size of each NPA to be acquired will be ₹500 crore as the focus is on resolving big-ticket bad loans.
  • The longer-term goal for the NARCL is to help resolve NPAs worth ₹2 lakh crore, with the remaining assets with lower provisions expected to be transferred in a second phase.
  • NARCL will have a 51% owned by public sector banks.


How will the NARCL operate?

  • The ‘bad bank’ will acquire assets by making an offer to the lead bank of a group of lenders of an NPA.
  • NARCL would make a 15% cash payment to the banks based on a valuation and the rest would be given as security receipts. These receipts, in turn, would be guaranteed by the government’s ₹30,600-crore backstop facility.
  • To assist the NARCL, public and private banks together would set up an India Debt Resolution Company Ltd. (IDRCL) that would manage the acquired assets and try to improve their value for final resolution. And on completion of resolution, the balance 85% of value, being held as security receipts, would be given to the banks.


In a nutshell,

The NARCL, which will acquire the bad loans from banks, and the India Debt Resolution Company Ltd. - which will then manage these assets and seek to enhance their value - have secured necessary approvals and permissions.

With the account-wise due diligence nearing completion, the first set of accounts is expected to be transferred during July 2022.


History of Banking Sector Crisis

  • India’s economy has been dependent to a large extent on the banking sector. Corporates have heavily relied on bank credit to fund their growth and expansion. India experienced an economic boom starting in 2003-2004, with the GDP growing at an average rate of close to 9%.
  • The big companies, sensing an opportunity, borrowed heavily from the banks to fund their growth and expansion. Moreover, the banks were more than willing to lend to the corporate sector at very low interest rates and without much due diligence.
  • But after the 2008 financial crisis, India’s economy experienced a slowdown, and many companies found it difficult to pay back the huge loans they had taken. For many years, this did not come to light as banks kept on restructuring, giving even more loans to these companies hoping that there would be a turn-around in these companies, as the economic conditions improve. Banks, mostly the public sector banks kept on ever-greening these loans and did not recognize them as Non-performing assets in their balance sheets, did not make provisions as it would hurt their profitability.
  • The problem got worse day by day, and the number of bad loans kept increasing. Consequently, as a lot of bank’s resources got locked up in these loans, bank lending and credit growth started to fall.
  • The extent of this problem came to light during the 2014 asset quality review of the banking sector by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The central bank took immediate actions – it scrutinized the banks and introduced new regulations regarding the recognition and reporting of non-performing assets in the banks’ balance sheet.
  • Gross NPA ratio is a measure of the NPA in the banking sector. It is calculated as a ratio of the non-performing loans to the total loans and advanced by scheduled commercial banks. As shown in the figure below, the gross NPA ratio drastically increased from 2.2% in 2009 to about 11.1% in 2018; the total amount of NPA surpassing Rs.10 trillion. India had among the highest NPA ratios in the world.

  • Most of the NPA’s were generated by the public sector banks, accounting for over 70% of the NPA of the entire banking sector. The trend of high-profile companies borrowing huge sums from PSB’s and then wilfully defaulting on these loans became evident. Moreover, many banking frauds came into light involving the public sector banks. The root causes of the NPA crisis were – high inefficiency and poor governance in the public sector banks, lack of due diligence and regulation and even outright fraud.


Steps taken

  • RBI and the Government took steps to address this problem, which was adversely impacting the flow of credit within the economy. Strict regulations by the RBI, reforms like The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC -2016), and bank recapitalization efforts by the Government helped reduce the gross NPA ratio in the banking sector to 8.5% in March 2020.
  • But due to the impact of COVID crisis on economic activity, many corporates find themselves in a difficult financial situation and once again the NPA ratio is poised to increase.
  • Also, because of the government support, moratorium on loans and the relaxation to banks on NPA reporting, the true extent of the increase in NPA’s unknown.
  • But according to latest estimates by the RBI in its financial stability report, the gross NPA’s may increase to 12.5% in March 2021 or in the worst scenario it may also escalate to 14.5%.


Proposal for a National Bad Bank

  • In May 2020, the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), a body representing major Indian banks submitted a proposal to the RBI and Government to set up a national Bad Bank.
  • According to the proposal, the bad bank would initially start with a book of approximately Rs.75000 Crores worth of bad loans.
  • A bad bank would allow banks to devote more time and effort to lending and flow of credit instead of being burdened with the recovery of past loans.
  • As bad loans ratio is expected to increase in the next few months due to the damage caused by the pandemic, it is argued that the time is ripe for the Government to set up a bad bank as it would help banks to deal with the spike in NPA’s and to assess the true extent of bad loans post the pandemic.

Cons of Bad Banks

  • No takers:When there are no takers for bad assets, so why have a bad bank;
  • Fire Sale Externality:The regular bank usually transfers the toxic assets to the bad bank at a discounted value. This lowers the market value of similar assets held by other banks. This forces the other banks to liquidate similar assets at lower prices thereby starting a vicious cycle which pushes prices below their fundamentals. This is known as fire sale externality.
  • Reduces Bank’s efficiency:If banks become aware that there will always be a bad bank to takeover and manage their toxic assets, then banks will tend to be less careful while granting loans.
  • Political Interference:Since toxic assets are held by bad banks, these bad banks are prone to political interferences by politicians supporting the chronic debtors. Unless the legislations creating the bad banks enact provisions to prevent such interferences, the functioning of the bad banks will be seriously jeopardized.
  • Huge Costs:Huge costs are involved in the creation and running of bad banks, transfer of toxic assets from the regular bank to the bad bank, restructuring the toxic assets, eventual disposal of the toxic assets etc. Many of these costs can be avoided, if the toxic assets are left with the regular bank itself.
  • Tight Fiscal Position:Why waste government resources when the Covid-19 crisis has put tremendous strain on resources. In an economy hit by the pandemic, it is hard to find buyers for distressed assets.
  • Price Discovery:The price at which toxic assets will be transferred will not be market-determined and price discovery might not happen properly;
  • Multiplicity of Agencies:ARCs are already there for the purpose.
  • Lack of skilled staff: Sufficient number of skilled and specialized staff that is necessary to actively manage these stressed assets may not readily available. Even if available, engaging them would be a very costly affair.
  • Not a Panacea:Creating Bad Bank is like shifting the problem from one head to other without addressing the structural and fundamental issues of NPA.


Pros of Bad Banks

  • Revival of Regular BanksIf there are no takers for the assets, then it makes sense to let domain experts deal with toxic assets till these can be sold. The regular bank after transferring its toxic assets to the bad bank can focus on its long term core operations without worrying about those toxic assets.
  • Good-books of stakeholders & agencies:Cleaning up of the balance sheet of the regular bank by transferring the toxic assets to the bad bank will have a positive impact about the regular bank in the eyes of the credit rating agencies, investors, lenders, borrowers and depositors.
  • Growth of Business:Transfer of Toxic Assets would enable it to involve itself in profitable/growth oriented business activities.
  • Centralization of bad assets:The ownership of the toxic assets and its collaterals are centralized in the bad bank thereby facilitating better management of those assets.
  • Speedy Disposal of Assets:The bad bank, which is created as a specialized agency to deal with toxic assets, hires specialized personnel to manage those assets. This helps in the speedy disposal of those assets with minimum loss in the most efficient manner.
  • Curbs risks of Failure:The good bank-good bank scheme minimizes contagion risks. Since the toxic assets of the regular bank are removed from its balance sheet and transferred to a new entity, the Non- performing assets of the regular bank are less exposed to risks of failure.
  • Better Price Discovery:Price discovery is an important component of the deal and a bad bank is best suited for fixing price. A good bank should make additional provision in case the discovered cost is less than the book value and they want to retain it on its books.

Raghuram Rajan on Bad Banks

Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan had opposed the idea of setting up a bad bank in which banks hold a majority stake.

“I just saw this (bad bank idea) as shifting loans from one government pocket (the public sector banks) to another

(the bad bank) and did not see how it would improve matters. Indeed, if the bad bank were in the public sector, the

reluctance to act would merely be shifted to the bad bank,” Rajan wrote in his book I Do What I Do.


International Experience on Bad Banks

Countries like the UK, the US, Spain, Malaysia, France, Finland, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Sweden have

successfully experimented with bad asset resolution through a bad bank. The earliest case was of the Mellon Bank in

 1988—to hold bad assets of $1.4 billion. The UK Asset Resolution (UKAR), a bad bank, repaid 48.7 billion pound taxpayers’ loan

that it had taken, and is close to selling the last of its asset portfolio before winding down. International

experience should come handy for us to model our bad bank on.


What lies ahead for the banking industry?

  • The government expects that the NARCL and the IDRCL, with adequate capital and its guarantee, will incentivise quicker action on resolving stressed assets, thereby helping in better value realisation.
  • As the holders of these stressed assets and security receipts, banks stand to receive the gains accruing from a successful resolution process.
  • In a bid to disincentivise delay in resolution, the government has also proposed that the NARCL pay a guarantee fee to the Centre, which would increase with the passage of time.
  • Critics of the bad bank concept, however, contend that the government’s role in guaranteeing some part of the NPAs could lead to laxity on the part of bankers in assessing risk and thus creating fresh loans.
  • Separately, a January 2020 Bank for International Settlements working paper on ‘Bad bank resolutions and bank lending’, in fact, found that “bad bank segregations are effective in cleaning up balance sheets and promoting bank lending only if they combine recapitalisation with asset segregation”.


Closing Thoughts

  • The above analysis clearly shows that the basic task of the bad bank is to mop up the mess created by the regular banks in relation to the management of their toxic assets. The toxic assets of a regular bank are transferred to the bad bank not just for the purpose of better management of the transferred assets but also for the purpose of cleaning up the balance sheet of the regular bank. This process however involves some costs.
  • As long as these costs are borne by the concerned banks or private players, the impact on the economy will be limited and the government needs to have only a regulatory control over the entire process.
  • However, if these costs are financed with tax payer’s money, a mere regulatory control by the government agencies will not be sufficient. Rather, a more strict and watchful control of the bad banks by the government will be necessary.
  • In India, as of now a large number of Asset Reconstruction Companies registered under the Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 are functioning. These are primarily financed by those regular banks whose toxic assets they service and liquidate. The said legislation provides the Reserve Bank of India with sufficient powers to exercise regulatory control over those bad banks.
  • However, it is highly doubtful, whether the said regulatory powers conferred on the Reserve Bank would be sufficient to ensure the efficient functioning of any public funded bad. More stringent legislation will be necessary.
  • Moreover, the economic fallout from the pandemic will further deteriorate the health of the banks. Restoring credit flow is essential to revive economic growth post the pandemic.
  • Amid an ongoing debate on whether a bad bank will be helpful or not, the Government and the central bank have rightly considered the idea of setting up a National Bad Bank. Creation of a bad bank can go a long way in reviving credit growth and the long-halted investment cycle.

Bad bank to kick off NPA takeover in July - The Hindu