The State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, expects to curb growth in bad loans in the current quarter, its chairman said on Friday, after the bank reported its biggest quarterly profit.
A surge in bad loans over the last few years has weighed heavily on the Indian banking sector, exacerbated by the worst slowdown the country has seen in a decade.
"Going forward, there is no big-ticket loan in sight that is likely to slip and corporate slippages are very much under control," Chairman Rajnish Kumar said on a post-earnings conference call.
Slippages, or fresh additions to bad loans, are not expected to go beyond Rs 6,000 crore in the March quarter, Mr Kumar added.
That number had nearly doubled to Rs 16,525 crore in the December quarter from a quarter earlier, mainly due to a 70 billion rupee exposure to debt-ridden housing finance giant DHFL.
However, the recovery of Rs 11,000 crore from bankrupt steel maker Essar Steel helped push SBI's profit 41 per cent higher to a record Rs 5,583 crore in the three months to December 31. Analysts had expected a profit of Rs 6,334 crore, according to Refinitiv data.
SBI's shares ended 2.5 per cent higher after the results as investors looked past the profit miss.
Lenders, including SBI, found respite after India's top court in November allowed ArcelorMittal SA to take over Essar Steel, which was laden with nearly Rs 5,000 crore in debt from banks.
The recoveries from Essar helped SBI lower its gross bad loan ratio, a measure of asset quality, to 6.94 per cent at December-end from 7.19 per cent in the previous quarter.
Lending, however, is expected to remain weak as companies hold back on borrowing in a slowing economy.
SBI said its credit growth for the current financial year may not exceed 10 per cent, down from its October forecast of 12 per cent.
Quarterly net interest income rose 22.42 per cent, while net interest margin, a key indicator of a bank's profitability, rose to 3.59 per cent, up 37 basis points from the previous quarter.