Ratings agency CRISIL has said that credit quality of Indian companies is beginning to stabilise after being in virtual free fall for FY09 as companies are having easier access to funds following the Union government's fiscal and monetary easing and positive stock market conditions coupled with lower commodity prices which have led to lower working capital requirements.
In a study, the ratings agency, however, cautioned that the recovery in credit quality will at best be gradual and may not necessarily be smooth.
“There are signs that both the monetary and fiscal easing and the lower commodity prices are temporary. Additionally, unlike in the late 1990s, we see no prospect of a sudden and sustained upturn in economic conditions to lift corporate performance. We can therefore rule out a sudden jump in modified credit ratio (MCR) of the kind we saw in 1999-2000, when MCR rose to 0.92 from 0.61,” said Raman Uberoi, senior director, CRISIL.
In India, fiscal and monetary authorities have begun to explore an exit from the present supportive stance and the timing and extent of these measures is likely to have a significant bearing on the pace and extent of economic recovery after the current phase of stabilisation, the ratings agency said.
In a research note, Standard Chartered Bank said although signs of recovery are apparent, most importantly in the industrial sector, the disappointing monsoon could impact private consumption expenditure which is a major contributor to overall gross domestic product (GDP) and remains weak.
Echoing the same, credit information company Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) said that a confluence of factors such as sustained improvement in index of industrial production (IIP), increase in direct tax collections and improving business sentiment indicate that the process of economic recovery has set in. Despite these developments, the pace of economic recovery is expected to be slow due to the emergence of certain downside risks such as a potentially lower agriculture growth and surging primary food articles inflation, D&B said.
CRISIL, the unit of Standard & Poor's further added, the return of stability to the global economy has also meant that commodity prices in India have retraced 25% to 35% of their decline from the peak levels of mid-2008.
“Access to funds has eased considerably, but there is significant uncertainty with respect to exchange rates and consumer demand. Large exchange rate movements can hit export-dependent sectors hard, and domestic demand can be affected by rising prices in general and food prices in particular," said Ajay Dwivedi, director, CRISIL Ratings.
"We also note that the Reserve Bank of India’s window for restructuring of bank assets helped many companies avoid distress over the last 12 months. Looking ahead, we see a long and bumpy road for recovery in corporate credit quality,” Dwivedi added.
Kaushal Sampat, chief operating officer, Dun & Bradstreet India said, “A sustained growth in industrial production will primarily be driven by the consistently improving business sentiment and recuperating demand conditions. Given the emergence of certain downside risks to growth and the limited scope for further fiscal stimulus, the timing of 'exit' strategies in terms of accommodative monetary policy becomes even more critical."
D&B said it expects that while RBI might consider increasing the cash reserve ratio (CRR) for draining of excess liquidity from the system anytime till the end of the current fiscal, it may maintain a status quo in terms of other policy interest rates. However, these changes to CRR are unlikely to happen in the policy review of October 2009.
-Yogesh Sapkale [email protected]