Why credit growth hit a 59-yr low in FY21? AAA-rated papers were 46 bps cheaper than bank rates

Reserve Bank, care ratings, GSECs, Madan Sabnavis, SBI research, mclr, credit growth

One of the reasons for bank credit growth to plunge to a 59-year low in FY21 could be that the higher (AAA & AA+)-rated companies could borrow cheaper from the markets than from banks whose loan pricing has been as high as 46 bps over the interest rate that corporate bonds commanded, despite banks slashing their MCLR by 90 bps in the year.

According to analysis of the corporate bond yields, bank’s MCLRs and GSecs between January 2020 and March 2021 by

Care Ratings

, AAA-rated companies could sell their debt at a cheaper rate than bank loans to the extent of 46 bps, and AA+ papers by 33 bps over the MCLR or the marginal cost of funds-based lending rate and below which a bank cannot lend. When compared to the Gsecs, AAA and AA+ papers could command only 100 bps over the benchmark gilts.

Despite the Reserve Bank leaving no stones unturned to boost credit demand that too in the worst crisis year for the economy that was savaged by the pandemic, credit demand from banks tumbled to a 59-year low at 5.56 per cent in FY21.

This was also in spite of the massive credit-driven stimulus that the government tried to push to help tide over the impact of the pandemic. At 5.56 per cent credit growth, this was the lowest recorded growth since FY1962 when its was at 5.38 per cent, SBI Research had said last month.

Corporate bond spreads are a good indicator of how the cost of borrowings for corporates has moved relative to the government through the GSec issuance, which have the advantage of security as they represent the sovereign and hence have the best pricing.

According to Madan Sabnavis, the chief economist at Care Ratings, the average difference between the spreads of AAA and AA+ paper was around 33 bps before the pandemic and for FY21 it was 46 bps. In case of AA-paper, the difference was 63 bps before the pandemic and 78 bps in FY21. However, from AA-downwards, the difference rose beyond 100 bps in FY21. Clearly the AA+ and AA rated corporates could borrow at just 100 bps higher than the 10-year GSecs.

This clearly means that even AA+ and AA rated corporates could borrow at less than 100 bps higher than the 10-years GSecs even in a year when the repo rate was slashed by over 145 bps and banks cutting their MLCR by 90, he says.

While the 1-year MCLR came down by 5 bps between January and March 2020, after RBI measures and lowering the repo rate, the MCLR came down by around 90 bps by the end of the year. But MCLR remained unchanged since December at 7.30 per cent.

If the same is looked at for the AAA rated paper, the rates came down by 43 bps between January and March 2020 as GSecs rate dipped by 36 bps. Subsequently, they came down by 30 bps by March though remained volatile as they touched a low of 6.40 per cent in October 2020.

The standard deviation was 30 bps for FY21 for MLCR and in case of GSecs the decline was just 3 bps in a point-to-point basis, with the standard deviation of 12 bps.

But when we compare bond rates/yields with the MCLR, AAA and AA+ rated paper continuously had finer yields than MCLR.

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