S&P downgrades SBI, UBI; banks say no big impact

S&P downgrades SBI, UBI; banks say no big impact Mumbai: Standard & Poor’s Wednesday downgraded credit ratings of State Bank of India and Union Bank of India by a notch, but the banks said it will have no impact on them as the agency has only brought the rating at par with the sovereign rating.

"We revised the stand-alone credit profile (SACP) of SBI to 'BBB-' from 'BBB', and that of UBI (Union Bank of India) to 'BB+' from 'BBB-' based on our anticipation of the banks' weak asset quality performance," S&P said in a statement.

The country's largest lender State Bank of India said the downgrading will have no impact on it as the rating agency has only brought the rating on par with the sovereign rating.

"This is not a downgrade per se, but only an equalisation of our ratings with that of the sovereign," SBI chairman Pratip Chaudhuri said, implying that the announcement by the world's largest rating agency will have little impact on the bank's ability to raise overseas funds.

Union Bank of India said it will have no impact on the bank's fund-raising as it has no plan to mop up overseas funds in the immediate future.

However, Union Bank of India CMD D Sarkar said, "it would have been better had S&P waited till the December quarter as the bank, since April, has done a lot on improving its asset quality.

"They should have looked at what we have done on the asset side. Whatever happened in June was an exception. We had clarified all that to them. But still they did not take those actions in consideration before arriving at their view."

Sarkar further said it doesn't matter much to a 95-year old institution like UBI. "Generalisation of a particular period for a medium term assessment is not something good.

"Any way it will have no material impact on cost of my funds as I have no MTN programme lined up for the mid to short- term," Sarkar said.

Angel Broking vice-president for research Vaibhav Agarwal said, "The only impact will be on the cost of foreign currency borrowing, as it will slightly rise for the public sector lender."

"We revised the SACPs of SBI and UBI because we expect the banks' asset quality to remain weak and credit costs to stay high," the rating agency said.

The rating firm also expects SBI's and UBI's asset quality to remain stressed in the fiscal years ending March 31, 2013, and 2014, partly due to continued slippages in their restructured loan books.

On the asset quality, Agarwal differed with S&P saying though there will be pressure on the asset quality of SBI, it will be better in the second quarter.

The BBB minus rating is considered the lowest investment grade by market participants; 'BB+' is considered the highest.

The current rating by S&P on the sovereign is BBB-, one notch away from junk status. The agency also warned today that the country stands a one-in-three chance of getting downgraded to junk status in the next 24 months if growth peters out further and fiscal deficit overshoots by way of rising subsidy bills.

PTI