Top lender State Bank of India sought to allay concerns about its asset quality and forecast credit growth in low double digits for the full year, after reporting earnings that were well above estimates for the final quarter of fiscal 2021. Most Indian banks have reported strong numbers for the March-quarter on a lower base and as lending picked up before the second coronavirus wave, but fresh lockdowns have since fanned worries about an increase in bad loans.
"We expect credit growth to be 10 per cent (for the full year) if hopefully the second wave of COVID-19 is behind us by the close of this quarter," Chairman Dinesh Khara said on a post-earnings call.
SBI's loans grew 5.7 per cent in fiscal 2021, compared with the bank's estimate of seven per cent. They grew 5.6 per cent in the previous year. Siddharth Purohit, research analyst at SMC Institutional Equities, however, said it would be difficult to reach double-digit credit growth as corporate borrowing remained slow.
Shares of the bank closed up 4.3 per cent to their highest since early March, and are up around 46 per cent for the year. Gross bad loans as a ratio of total loans, a measure of asset quality, ticked up to 4.98 per cent from 4.77 per cent a quarter earlier. India's top court in March lifted an interim stay that had prevented banks from recognising bad loans.
"Going forward we do not see any concern on the asset quality front," Khara said, adding that the economy is expected to bounce back sooner than it did last year even as the bank remains on a "wait-and-watch" mode. SBI's net profit jumped 80 per cent to a record Rs 6,451 crore as bad loan provisions slid 16.6 per cent, beating analysts' expectations for a profit of Rs 61.47 crore, according to Refinitiv IBES data.