Fitch downgrades SBI ICICI, Axis bank viability ratings

COVID-19: Fitch downgrades viability ratings of SBI, BoB, ICICI, Axis Bank

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Fitch Ratings on Thursday downgraded the viability ratings (VR) of State Bank of India (SBI), ICICI Bank and Axis Bank to 'bb' from 'bb+' on account of deteriorating operating environment for banks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global rating agency also downgraded Bank of Baroda's (BOB) VR by one notch to 'bb-', from 'bb'.

The agency affirmed the long-term issuer default ratings (IDR) of SBI and BOB at 'BBB-' and those of ICICI Bank and Axis Bank at 'BB+'.

The outlook for all the four banks has been kept as stable.

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"The rating actions are driven by rapid deterioration in the operating environment for banks in the country following the coronavirus pandemic and measures to contain its spread," the agency said.

For SBI and BOB, the VR downgrades reflect the heightened risks that weakening asset quality will pose to their less-than-satisfactory loss-absorption buffers.

"We expect SBI's and BOB's financial performances to worsen, although their asset-quality problems may not materialise until the effects of the 90-day regulatory moratorium on impaired loans recognition wear off," it said.

The VR downgrades of ICICI Bank and Axis Bank highlight heightened risks to their asset qualities and earnings from the disruption in business and consumer activity, which the rating agency expects to continue well beyond the lockdown in the country.

Besides these banks, the rating agency also affirmed IDRs of Punjab National Bank (PNB), Bank of India (BOI) and Canara Bank at 'BBB-', with stable outlooks.

The viability rating of PNB has been affirmed at 'b' and that of Canara Bank at 'bb-'.