Indian property slump leaves beleaguered banks exposed

A slump in the residential property market is leaving many builders struggling to repay loans to shadow lenders — housing finance firms outside the regular banking sector that account for over half of the loans to developers. (Shutterstock)
Updated 14 October 2019

Indian property slump leaves beleaguered banks exposed

  • While the Indian banking system could be hit by billions of dollars of additional soured debt, the cash crunch in the housing market has levied a toll in human misery

MUMBAI: India might have thought the worst of a bad loans crisis was past, but a severe cash crunch in the real estate industry could augur fresh strife for its banks. A slump in the residential property market is leaving many builders struggling to repay loans to shadow lenders — housing finance firms outside the regular banking sector that account for over half of the loans to developers.

With about $10 billion of development loans coming up for repayment in the first half of 2020, according to Fitch Rating’s Indian division, the fallout could spread to mainstream banks that have lent money to the shadow lenders or invested in their bonds.

Indian financial authorities, including the central bank and government, have said this year that the banking sector’s bad loans — totaling more than $150 billion — are on the decline for the first time in four years after ballooning during a debt crisis. But the number of property developers falling into bankruptcy has doubled during the past nine months, piling pressure on nonbanking finance companies (NBFCs), commonly known as shadow lenders.

Potential implosions of these NBFCs could expose banks, according to 12 banking and real estate sources.

A senior banking industry official, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said banks would be affected by the property cash crunch in three ways: Their lending to NBFCs, their own direct exposure to developers and also individuals who do not repay mortgages.

“It will be a triple-whammy,” he said. While the Indian banking system could be hit by billions of dollars of additional soured debt, the cash crunch in the housing market has levied a toll in human misery.

Retired Squadron Leader Krishan Mitroo has paid 90 percent of the cost of his house in Noida, northern India, to developer Jaypee, and the property was supposed to be handed over five years ago. However, Jaypee was forced to delay the project and went into insolvency in 2017.

“The project has been stuck and there is no progress at all. Even the bankruptcy court has not been able to resolve the issue so far, it is just hanging in thin air,” Mitroo said. He did not say how much money he had paid, but properties in that project range from about $56,000 to $140,000.

Several such projects are stuck across the country and buyers are waiting for new developers to take interest and complete them with the hope that their hard-earned money, which has been stuck for years, won’t be lost forever.


New Delhi to sell full stake in debt-ridden Air India

Updated 27 January 2020

New Delhi to sell full stake in debt-ridden Air India

  • The airline, which owes more than $8 billion, has been struggling to pay salaries and buy fuel
  • Formerly India’s monopoly airline, carrier was once known affectionately as the ‘Maharaja of the skies’

MUMBAI: New Delhi intends to sell its entire stake in the debt-crippled national carrier Air India, the government announced Monday, after failing previously to secure any bids for a majority share.
The airline, which owes more than $8 billion, has been struggling to pay salaries and buy fuel, with officials recently warning that it would have to shut down unless a buyer was found.
On Monday the civil aviation ministry released a document inviting bids for a 100 percent stake, setting March 17 as the deadline for initial submissions.
Potential buyers would have to assume around $3.26 billion in debt, the document said.
The government was forced in 2018 to shelve plans to sell a 76 percent stake in Air India after failing to attract any bidders.
India’s Tata Group, Singapore Airlines (SIA) and IndiGo were all linked to a takeover but subsequently ruled themselves out.
Founded in 1932 and formerly India’s monopoly airline, the company was once known affectionately as the “Maharaja of the skies.”
But it has been hemorrhaging money for more than a decade and has lost market share to low-cost rivals in one of the world’s fastest-growing but most competitive airline markets.
In November aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said the airline would “have to close down if it is not privatized.”
State-run oil companies halted fuel supplies to Air India in August after it fell behind on payments, though the firms agreed to lift the suspension a month later after talks brokered by the government.
The country’s aviation sector has been stuck in a slump since the collapse of Jet Airways last year.