‘ICICI, Axis Bank fall after Fitch downgrade; CLSA sees no impact on earnings’

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ICICI Bank and Axis Bank shares fell around a percent each intraday on June 4 after global rating agency Fitch downgraded both by a notch saying financial health of the private sector banks has weakened.

Axis Bank was quoting at Rs 809.90, down Rs 2.40, or 0.30 percent, and ICICI Bank was down 0.48 percent at Rs 420.80 on the BSE at 0952 hours IST.

Fitch Ratings said it has downgraded ICICI Bank as well as Axis Bank’s Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘BB+’ from ‘BBB-‘ and its Viability Rating to ‘bb+’ from ‘bbb-‘. The Outlook on the IDR is Stable, it said.

It has also affirmed banks’ Support Rating at ‘3’ and Support Rating Floor at ‘BB+’.

BB rating indicates speculative grade while BBB points at good credit quality.

Fitch lowered its midpoint for India’s operating environment to ‘bb+’ from ‘bbb-‘ following a review of the banking sector’s performance, particularly in the last three years, and its regulatory framework, as well as the outlook in the near term.

“We also compared India with other sovereign jurisdictions in Asia rated in the ‘BBB’ category including the key metrics of GDP per capita and the ease-of-doing-business ranking,” it said.

The rating agency concluded the sector will perform below the average of its peers over the next one to two years in spite of its expectations of high economic growth and improving business prospects in India.

The performance of Indian banks should have largely bottomed, but the sector is still struggling with poor asset quality and weak core capitalisation, it said.

Global brokerage house, CLSA sees limited impact from revision in credit ratings by Fitch to below investment grade. “Downgrade comes on the back of Fitch’s concerns about the operating environment. While Fitch rates Axis’ instruments, its ratings on ICICI Bank are unsolicited,” it said.

According to the brokerage, rating downgrade may not have any material impact on their earnings but risks can arise from downgrades by other agencies.

CLSA expects banks to see 15-16 percent return on equities by FY21. It maintains buy ratings on both.

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