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Hit by cash crunch at home, NBFCs are paying more for foreign funds

Cash squeeze threatens broader fallout, as higher cost of funds is passed on to merchants getting micro loans & property tycoons looking to roll over debt.

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Mumbai: India’s shadow banks are getting increasingly squeezed by a crisis of confidence at home, forcing them to cough up more for funds overseas. And that’s just for the lucky ones.

The non-bank financing companies have struggled to raise as much abroad this year, as defaults in India’s credit market spread after a shock failure by major shadow lender IL&FS Group last year. They’ve signed $1.5 billion of foreign-currency loans so far in 2019, down from $2 billion in the same period last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg that excludes state-run lenders.

Average margins jumped to a three-year high of 118 basis points, compared with 95 for the deals signed in the same period in 2018, the data show.

India’s slowest economic growth in six years has prompted predictions for deeper interest-rate cuts, but that’s yet to translate into easier borrowing conditions at home for the shadow lenders.

The cash squeeze threatens a broader fallout, as the higher cost of funds is passed on to merchants getting micro loans and property tycoons looking to roll over debt. Authorities are trying to boost market confidence with measures including nudging commercial banks to purchase high-quality NBFC assets.

The overseas borrowings by NBFCs “is pertinent to boost buffers at a time when domestic liquidity is not easy to come by for the sector,” said Ashwini Kapila, head of financial institutions group coverage at the Indian unit of Barclays Plc. “Some of these NBFCs are open to paying a premium to get this liquidity.”

Foreign lenders are playing it safe and seeking to lend only to the top borrowers from the sector, especially those founded by the nation’s largest business groups.

That’s not stopping more shadow banks from trying.

At least eight including Bajaj Finance Ltd., L&T Finance Ltd. and Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Ltd., are seeking about $1.6 billion in offshore loan facilities, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

While the spate of defaults and rating cuts at shadow banks have dampened perceptions about the sector, bankers have been at work “explaining to global investors that not all NBFCs can be painted with the same brush,” Kapila said. – Bloomberg

Also read: Rupee, stocks fall to this year’s lowest as economic slowdown worsens


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