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Global Securitisation – Are we heading into a coronavirus credit crisis?

Timothy Lopes, Executive, Vinod Kothari Consultants

finserv@vinodkothari.com

The global financial credit crisis of 2007-08 was a result of severe financial distress arising out of high level of sub-prime mortgage lending. Top Credit Rating Agencies (CRA) downgraded majority securitization transactions, slashing ‘AAA’ ratings to ‘Junk’.

Sub-prime borrowers could not repay, lenders were weary of lending further, investors investments in Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) were stagnant and not reaping any return.

All these factors led to one of the worst financial crisis that affected global economies and not just the US alone. Recovering from such a crisis takes ample amount of time and efforts in the form of policy measures and financial stimulus / bail out packages of the government.

The rapid spread and depth of Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has had severe impact across the globe in a matter of months. Stock markets are witnessing a global sell off. Countries have imposed complete lockdowns countrywide in order to mitigate the impact of this pandemic. Securitisation volumes are likely to witness a drop in light of the pandemic.

Daily, the situation only seems to be getting worse due to the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 and its rapid spread. There is absolutely no doubt that the impact on the financial sector and on economies worldwide is / will be a negative one.

As stated by the RBI Governor, in his nationwide address on 27th March, 2020 –

“The outlook is now heavily contingent upon the intensity, spread and duration of the pandemic. There is a rising probability that large parts of the global economy will slip into recession”

The question here is, “Are we headed for another global financial crisis?” We try to analyse this question in this write up, in light of the present scenario.

Global securitisation impact of COVID-19

Worldwide businesses are affected, due to global travel bans in major economies affecting airlines, local transport, auto industry, hotels, etc. These industries are highly impacted by the spread of COVID-19. This impacts cash flows, liquidity, and capacity to repay liabilities in the short term as well as severely impacting profitability.

In the lending space, lenders have put a halt on lending, since collections from borrowers have stopped. Further, borrowers’ capacity to repay has been affected by the outbreak, leading to a halt in repayments as well. Since companies and individual borrowers will have financial difficulties in a slowed down economy, there is an anticipated increase in defaults, delinquencies and NPA recovery rates as a result of the pandemic.

Amidst the unavoidable circumstances, globally, several relief measures have been initiate by Governments, by providing stimulus/ relief packages to SMEs, student loans, etc., while also urging banks to allow relief to borrowers on repayment of their loans and EMIs. This is the case in several economies including Italy, Hungary, USA, Australia and India as well.

Although these measures will aim to mitigate the adverse effects in the short run, the duration of the pandemic caused crisis is still uncertain. This high level of unusual uncertainty has led to negative outlook for securitisations across the globe.

Rating agencies are downgrading securitisation portfolios as the outlook gets worse each day. The magnitude of impact would depend on the asset class and industry. Thus, ratings would change accordingly.

Issuers and servicers are taking several measures to respond to outbreak in day-today-operations. Lenders have begun implementing their business continuity plans, while banks and financial institutions have started granting payment holidays to help affected consumers.

We cannot foresee the duration of the pandemic, however, at present the situation only seems to worsen by the day, resulting in highly unusual uncertain in global securitisations.

Impact on various asset classes globally

Italy –

Italy is one of the worst affected countries, leading the government to take measures to completely shut down economic activity in the country, banning travel and public gatherings, etc[1].

According to a Moody’s research report[2] the above measures by the Italian government are credit negative for Italian structured finance transactions and covered bonds, with adverse effects on the credit quality of underlying assets because borrowers will face financial difficulties, ultimately increasing delinquencies and defaults. In case of NPLs, recoveries will be delayed.

Further, the Italian Banking Association (IBA) has announced an agreement for a voluntary 12-month moratorium on principal payments of SME loans and leases. According to Moody’s, The agreement between lenders and borrowers would suspend or extend repayments on medium and long-term loans, including mortgages, which could create liquidity pressure for Italian transactions.

Impact on various asset classes in Italy–

Given the above factors, Moody’s expect these issues to increase delinquencies and defaults in portfolios backing RMBS, consumer ABS and covered bonds. Further, NPL transactions primarily backed by mortgages will have delayed recoveries.

Further, Consumer ABS, SME ABS and RMBS portfolios have relatively high concentrations of loans originated in three major regions in Italy (Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto), which also happen to be the most virus-affected and locked-down regions. These three regions happen to account for more than 40% of the Italian GDP.

 USA –

Kroll Bond Rating Agency (KBRA) has reported[3] that since the beginning of March, 2020, the US stock market is down approximately 18% and unemployment claims are rising quickly as state governments, including California, New York, and other jurisdictions have directed citizens to shelter in place except for food, health care and essential jobs.

Isolation measures have suddenly and dramatically impacted GDP, with payrolls shrinking rapidly across service sectors. The current consensus GDP decline among investment bank forecasts is -2.4% for 2020.

Impact on various asset classes in the US –

US Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) –

According to the KBRA report, for RMBS, broad economic conditions, including unemployment, will likely drive transaction performance and lenders’ continued willingness to extend credit. To the extent targeted actions address unemployment and/or loss of income, as well as mitigate widespread defaults and loan modifications, they can be supportive of mortgage market liquidity and stabilization. However the following impacts are likely –

  • Increased delinquency rates as a direct impact of increased unemployment, due to industries affected by social distancing measures.
  • Increased likelihood of modification following a period of delinquency, based on the duration of the contagion.
  • Lengthening foreclosure and liquidation timelines due to foreclosure and eviction moratoria.
  • Varied effects on prepayment rates for certain collateral, due to rate movements and liquidity constraints.

US Whole Business Securitisation

According to S&P Global ratings[4], the negative impact on whole business securitizations (WBS) from the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. will almost certainly be substantial, particularly for the restaurant sector. S&P Global Ratings expects the COVID-19 pandemic to result in a material negative sales impact for many U.S. whole business securitization (WBS) issuers.

The country has recently reported large number of growing coronavirus cases, leading it to be the highest in the world, even crossing China. This only leads to more uncertainty, as markets expect high delinquencies and defaults in payments as well as slow-down in collections.

China –

As per a Moody’s report[5] securitisation transactions in China are moderately vulnerable to disruptions caused by the virus. Mainly because, consumer loans such as residential mortgages, auto loans and credit cards are the main collateral type. Consumer loan asset quality will deteriorate. However, negative implications will vary depending on the extent of asset deterioration and transactions’ structural features.

Chinese auto loan ABS asset quality will deteriorate, with delinquency rates increasing in the first half of 2020 or even longer as the coronavirus outbreak hurts the Chinese economy. In January, the 30+ days delinquency rate for Chinese auto ABS we rate increased to 0.17%, the highest since 2016 but still a low level.

However, strong portfolio characteristics, including prime quality borrowers and geographically diverse pools, will mitigate asset risks.

Australia –

Policymakers in Australia have announced stimulus measures to dampen increasing financial hardship. Australian banks have announced support measures for households and small business customers affected by the coronavirus, including temporary relief from home-loan repayments.

As per the aforementioned Moody’s report, the collateral credit quality of Australian residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and other consumer loan ABS will also deteriorate. Loans to small-and-medium businesses and self-employed borrowers will pose the most risk, given many such borrowers will likely face material disruptions to their business operations, employment prospects and cash flow. Overall, the risks posed to deal credit quality are moderate, although lower-ranked tranches with smaller credit enhancement cushions may come under some pressure in more severe downside scenarios.

These measures could prove effective, however, there will be disruptions in cash flows and repayments to the issuer, especially in case of RMBS where the only regular cash flows arise from collections from the underlying borrowers.

The Indian Scenario

The Indian Government has taken aggressive measures and imposed a complete 21 day countrywide lockdown. There have been substantial rate cuts announced by the Reserve Bank of India. The RBI has also permitted banks and financial institutions to allow a 3 month moratorium for borrowers to make repayments on term loans.

We have covered the details of moratorium permitted by RBI in a separate set of FAQs[6] and write ups[7].

However, as per Moody’s, Indian ABS are highly vulnerable to coronavirus-related disruptions, because their credit quality is heavily dependent on sponsors’. Indian asset-backed securities (ABS) transactions, which are mostly commercial vehicle and small business ABS deals, are highly vulnerable to the bankruptcy of their sponsors, which are also typically the transactions’ servicers. Indian sponsors are now facing a funding issue, which is exacerbated by the rapid and widening spread of the coronavirus, and a deteriorating global economic outlook. The sponsor’s bankruptcy would disrupt cash collections given that, in their capacity as servicers, they largely collect loan payments through their collection agents in person and in cash.

In addition, ABS pass-through certificates would likely default if sponsors go bankrupt, because bankruptcy administrators would take control of the cash in the first-loss credit facility, which serves as both credit enhancement and liquidity in the deals. The assets in the deals also pose a moderate risk to credit quality of the transactions because slowing economic growth weakens demand for commercial vehicle operators, and small business owners. However, declining oil prices reduce operating costs for commercial operators, partially mitigating risks.

Conclusion

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director had earlier announced that the global economy has entered a recession as bad as or worse than 2009.

The outbreak has certainly caused unprecedented impact on global economies. Given the high level of uncertainty and negative outlook, there is high probability of a credit crisis in the world of structured finance which could replicate or be even worse than the global financial crisis of 2008.

In case of securitisation structures, the originators/ servicers do not have a right to impose a moratorium. There has to be concurrence of investors and the trustee in the matter. Credit enhancements will have to be dipped into in most transactions.

Ultimately, the impact on securitisation will depend upon the duration of the pandemic, which is very uncertain and unpredictable. One cannot predict but can only wait to see how these events unfold.

[1] http://www.trovanorme.salute.gov.it/norme/dettaglioAtto?id=73629&completo=true;

[2] https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBS_1218335

[3]https://www.krollbondratings.com/documents/report/32289/rmbs-coronavirus-covid-19-u-s-rmbs-and-residential-real-estate-ramifications

[4] https://www.spglobal.com/ratings/en/research/articles/200318-u-s-whole-business-securitizations-under-stress-from-covid-19-11391612

[5] https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBS_1219586

[6] http://vinodkothari.com/2020/03/moratorium-on-loans-due-to-covid-19-disruption/

[7] http://vinodkothari.com/2020/03/rbi-moratorium-on-term-loans-impact-on-sec-and-da-transactions/

RBI granted moratorium on term loans: Impact on securitisation and direct assignment transactions

Abhirup Ghosh

abhirup@vinodkothari.com

In response to the stress caused due to the pandemic COVID-19, the regulatory authorities around the world have been coming out relaxations and bailout packages. Reserve Bank of India, being the apex financial institution of the country, came out a flurry of measures as a part of its Seventh Bi-Monthly Policy[1][2], to tackle the crisis in hand.

One of the measure, which aims to pass on immediate relief to the borrowers, is extension of moratorium on term loans extended by banks and financial institutions.  We have in a separate write-up[3] discussed the impact of this measure, however, in this write-up we have tried to examine its impact on the securitisation and direct assignment transactions.

Securitisation and direct assignment transactions have been happening extensively since the liquidity crisis after the failure of ILFS and DHFL, as it allowed the investors to take exposure on the underlying assets, without having to take any direct exposure on the financial intermediaries (NBFCs and HFCs). However, this measure has opened up various ambiguities in the structured finance industry regarding the fate of the securitisation or direct assignment transactions in light of this measure.

Originators’ right to extend moratorium

The originators, will be expected to extend this moratorium to the borrowers, even for the cases which have been sold the under securitisation. The question is, do they have sufficient right to extend moratorium in the first place? The answer is no. The moment an originator sells off the assets, all its rights over the assets stands relinquished. However, after the sale, it assumes the role of a servicer. Legally, a servicer does not have any right to confer any relaxation of the terms to the borrowers or restructure the facility.

Therefore, if at all the originator/ servicer wishes to extend moratorium to the borrowers, it will have to first seek the consent of the investors or the trustees to the transaction, depending upon the terms of the assignment agreement.

On the other hand, in case of the direct assignment transactions, the originators retain only 10% of the cash flows. The question here is, will the originator, with 10% share, be able to grant moratorium? The answer again is no. With just 10% share in the cash flows, the originator cannot alone grant moratorium, approval of the assignee has to be obtained.

Investors’ rights

As discussed above, extension of moratorium in case of account sold under direct assignment or securitisation transactions, will be possible only with the consent of the investors. Once the approval is placed, what will happen to the transactions, as very clearly there will be a deferral of cash flows for a period of 3 months? Will this lead to a deterioration in the quality of the securitised paper, ultimately leading to a rating downgrade? Will this lead to the accounts being classified as NPAs in the books of the assignee, in case of direct assignment transactions?

Before discussing this question, it is important to understand that the intention behind this measure is to extend relief to the end borrowers from the financial stress due to this on-going pandemic. The relief is not being granted in light of any credit weakness in the accounts. In a securitisation or a direct assignment, the transaction mirrors the quality of the underlying pool. If the credit quality of the loans remain intact, then there is no question of the securitisation or the direct assignment transaction going bad. Similarly, we do not see any reason for rating downgrade as well.

The next question that arises here is: what about the loss of interest due to the deferment of cash flows? The RBI’s notification states that the financial institutions may provide a moratorium of 3 months, which basically means a payment holiday. This, however, does not mean that the interest accrual will also be suspended during this period. As per our understanding, despite the payment suspension, the lenders will still be accruing the interest on the loans during these 3 months – which will be either collected from the borrower towards the end of the transaction or by re-computing the EMIs. If the lenders adopt such practices, then it should also pass on the benefits to the investors, and the expected cash flows of the PTCs or under the direct assignment transactions should also be recomputed and rescheduled so as to compensate the investors for the losses due to deferment of cash flows.

Another question that arises is – can the investors or the trustee in a securitisation transaction, instead of agreeing to a rescheduling of cash flows, use the credit enhancement to recover the dues during this period? Here it is important to note that credit enhancements are utilised usually when there is a shortfall due to credit weakness of the underlying borrower(s). Using credit enhancements in this case, will reduce the extent of support, weaken the structure of the transaction and may lead to rating downgrade. Therefore, this is not advisable.

We were to imagine an extreme situation – can the investors force the originators to buy back the PTCs or the pool from the assignee, in case of a direct assignment transaction? In case of securitisation transactions, there are special guidelines for exercise of clean up calls on PTCs by the originators, therefore, such a situation will have to be examined in light of the applicable provisions of Securitisation Guidelines. For any other cases, including direct assignment transactions, such a situation could lead up to a larger question on whether the original transaction was itself a true sale or not, because, a buy-back of the pool, defies the basic principles of true sale. Hence, this is not advisable.

[1]https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/Content/PDFs/GOVERNORSTATEMENT5DDD70F6A35D4D70B49174897BE39D9F.PDF

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11835&Mode=0

[3] http://vinodkothari.com/2020/03/moratorium-on-loans-due-to-covid-19-disruption/

Sale assailed: NBFC crisis may put Indian securitisation transactions to trial

-By Vinod Kothari (vinod@vinodkothari.com)

Securitisation is all about bankruptcy remoteness, and the common saying about bankruptcy remoteness is that it works as long as the entities are not in bankruptcy! The fact that any major bankruptcy has put bankruptcy remoteness to challenge is known world-over. In fact, the Global Financial Crisis itself put several never-before questions to legality of securitisation, some of them going into the very basics of insolvency law[1]. There have been spate of rulings in the USA pertaining to transfer of mortgages, disclosures in offer documents, law suits against trustee, etc.

The Indian securitisation market has faced taxation challenges, regulatory changes, etc. However, it has so far been immune from any questions at the very basics of either securitisability of assets, or the structure of securitisation transactions, or issues such as commingling of cashflows, servicer transition, etc. However, sitting at the very doorstep of defaults by some major originators, and facing the spectrum of serious servicer downgrades, the Indian securitisation market clearly faces the risk of being shaken at its basics, in not too distant future.

Before we get into these challenges, it may be useful to note that the Indian securitisation market saw an over-100% growth in FY 2019 with volumes catapulting to INR 1000 billion. In terms of global market statistics, Indian market may now be regarded as 2nd largest in ex-Japan Asia, only after China.

Since the blowing up of the ILFS crisis in the month of September 2018, securitisation has been almost the only way of liquidity for NBFCs. Based on the Budget proposal, the Govt of India launched, in Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme, a scheme for partial sovereign guarantee for AA-rated NBFC pools. That scheme seems to be going very well as a liquidity breather for NBFCs. Excluding the volumes under the partial credit enhancement scheme, securitisation volumes in first half of the year have already crossed INR 1000 billion.

In the midst of these fast rising volumes, the challenges on the horizon seem multiple, and some of them really very very hard. This write up looks at some of these emerging developments.

Sale of assets to securitisation trusts questioned

In an interim order of the Bombay High court in Edelweiss AMC vs Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Limited[2], the Bombay High court has made certain observations that may hit at the very securitisability of receivables.  Based on an issue being raised by the plaintiff, the High Court has directed the company DHFL to provide under affidavit details of all those securitisation transactions where receivables subject to pari passu charge of the debentureholders have been assigned, whether with or without the sanction of the trustee for the debentureholders.

The practice of pari passu floating charge on receivables is quite commonly used for securing issuance of debentures. Usually, the charge of the trustees is on a blanket, unspecific common pool, based on which multiple issuances of debentures are covered. The charge is usually all pervasive, covering all the receivables of the company. In that sense, the charge is what is classically called a “floating charge”.

These are the very receivables that are sold or assigned when a securitisation transaction is done. The issue is, given the floating nature of the charge, a receivable originated automatically becomes subject to the floating charge, and a receivable realised or sold automatically goes out of the purview of the charge. The charge document typically requires a no-objection confirmation of the chargeholder for transactions which are not in ordinary course of business. But for an NBFC or an HFC, a securitisation transaction is a mode of take-out and very much a part of ordinary course of business, as realisation of receivables is.

If the chargeholder’s asset cover is still sufficient, is it open for the chargeholder to refuse to give the no-objection confirmation to another mode of financing? If that was the case, any chargeholder may just bring the business of an NBFC to a grinding halt by refusing to give a no-objection.

The whole concept of a floating charge and its priority in the event of bankruptcy has been subject matter of intensive discussion in several UK rulings[3]. There have been discussions on whether the floating charge concept, a judge-made product of UK courts, can be eliminated altogether from the insolvency law[4].

In India, the so-called security interest on receivables is not really intended to be a security device – it is merely a regulatory compliance with company law rules under which unsecured debentures are treated as “deposits”[5]. The real intent of the so-called debenture trust document is maintenance of an asset cover, which may be expressed as a covenant, even otherwise, in case of an unsecured debenture issuance. The fact is that over the years, the Indian bond issuance market has not been able to come out of the clutches of this practice of secured debenture issuance.

While bond issuance practices surely need re-examination, the burning issue for securitisation transactions is – if the DHFL interim ruling results into some final observations of the court about need for the bond trustee’s NOC for every securitisation transaction, all existing securitisation transactions may also face similar challenges.

Servicer-related downgrades

Rating agencies have recently downgraded two notches from AAA ratings several pass-through certificate transactions of a leading NBFC. The rationale given in the downgrade action, among other things, cites servicer risks, on the ground that the originator has not been able to obtain continuous funding support from banks. While absence of continuing funding support may affect new business by an NBFC, how does it affect servicing capabilities of existing transactions, is a curious question. However, it seems that in addition to the liquidity issue, which is all pervasive, the rating action in the present case may have been inspired by some internal scheme of arrangement proposed by the NBFC in question.

This particular downgrades may, therefore, not have a sectoral relevance. However, what is important is that the downgrades are muddying the transition history of securitisation ratings. From the classic notion that securitisation ratings are not susceptible to originator-ratings, the dependence of securitisation transactions to pure originator entity risks such as internal funding strengths or scheme of arrangement puts a risk which is usually not considered by securitisation investors. In fact, the flight to securitisation and direct assignments after ILFS crisis was based on the general notion that entity risks are escaped by securitisation transactions.

Servicer transitions

The biggest jolt may be a forced servicer transition. In something like RMBS transactions, outsourcing of collection function is still easy, and, in many cases, several activities are indeed outsourced. However, if it comes to more complicated assets requiring country-wide presence, borrower franchise and regular interaction, if servicer transition has to be forced, the transaction will be worse than originator bankruptcy.

Questions on true sale

The market has been leaning substantially on the “direct assignment” route. Most of the direct assignments are seen by the investors are look-alikes and feel-alikes of a loan to the originator, save and except for the true-sale opinion. Investors have been linking their rates of return to their MCLR. Investors have been viewing the excess spread as a virtual credit support, which is actually not allowed as per RBI regulations. Pari-passu sharing of principal and interest is rarely followed by the market transactions.

If the truth of the sale in most of the direct assignment transactions is questioned in cases such as those before the Bombay High court, it will not be surprising to see the court recharacterise the so-called direct assignments as nothing but disguised loans. If that was to happen in one case of a failed NBFC, not only will the investors lose the very bankruptcy-remoteness they were hoping for, the RBI will be chasing the originators for flouting the norms of direct assignment which may have hitherto been ignored by the supervisor. The irony is – supervisors become super stringent in stressful times, which is exactly where supervisor’s understanding is required more than reprimand.

Conclusion

NBFCs are passing through a very strenuous time. Delicate handling of the situation with deep understanding and sense of support is required from all stakeholders. Any abrupt strong action may exacerbate the problem beyond proportion and make it completely out of control. As for securitisation practitioners, it is high time to strengthen practices and realise that the truth of the sale is not in merely getting a true sale opinion.

Other Related Articles:


[1] For example, in a Lehman-related UK litigation called Perpetual Trustees vs BNY Corporate Trustee Services, the typical clause in a synthetic securitisation diverting the benefit of funding from the protection buyer (originator – who is now in bankruptcy) to the investors, was challenged under the anti-deprivation rule of insolvency law. Ultimately, UK Supreme Court ruled in favour of securitisation transactions.

[2] https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/pdf_upload-365465.pdf. Similar observations have been made by the same court in Reliance Nippon Life AMC vs  DHFL.

[3] One of the leading UK rulings is Spectrum Plus Limited, https://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/2005/41.html. This ruling reviews whole lot of UK rulings on floating charges and their priorities.

[4] See, for example, R M Goode, The Case for Abolition of the Floating Charge, in Fundamental Concepts of Commercial Law (50 years of Reflection, by Goode)

[5] Or partly, the device may involve creation of a mortgage on a queer inconsequential piece of land to qualify as “mortgage debentures” and therefore, avail of stamp duty relaxation.

Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme

A Business Conclave on  “Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme” was organised by Indian Securitisation Foundation jointly with Edelweiss on September 16,2019 in Mumbai.

On this occasion, the presentation used by Mr. Vinod Kothari is being given here:

http://vinodkothari.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/partial-credit-enhancement-scheme-.pdf

 

We have authored few articles on the topic that one might want to give a read. The links to such related articles are provided below:

Government Credit enhancement scheme for NBFC Pools: A win-win for all

Vinod Kothari (vinod@vinodkothari.com)

The so-called partial credit enhancement (PCE) for purchase of NBFC/HFC pools by public sector banks (PSBs) may, if meaningfully implemented, be a win-win for all. The three primary players in the PCE scheme are NBFCs/HFCs (let us collectively called them Originators), the purchasing PSBs, and the Government of India (GoI). The Scheme has the potential to infuse liquidity into NBFCs while at the same time giving them advantage in terms of financing costs, allow PSBs to earn spreads while enjoying the benefit of sovereign guarantee, and allow the GoI to earn a spread of 25 bps virtually carrying no risks at all. This brief write-ups seeks to make this point.

The details of the Scheme with our elaborate questions and answers have been provided elsewhere.

Modus operandi

Broadly, the way we envisage the Scheme working is as follows:

  1. An Originator assimilates a pool of loans, and does tranching/credit enhancements to bring a senior tranche to a level of AA rating. Usually, tranching is associated with securitisation, but there is no reason why tranching cannot be done in case of bilateral transactions such as the one envisaged here. The most common form of tranching is subordination. Other structured finance devices such as turbo amortisation, sequential payment structure, provisions for redirecting the excess spread to pay off the principal on senior tranche, etc., may be deployed as required.
  2. Thus, say, on a pool of Rs 100 crores, the NBFC does so much subordination by way of a junior tranche as to bring the senior tranche to a AA level. The size of subordination may be worked, crudely, by X (usually 3 to 4) multiples of expected losses, or by a proper probability distribution model so as to bring the confidence level of the size of subordination being enough to absorb losses to acceptable AA probability of default. For instance, let us think of this level amounting to 8% (this percentage, needless to say, will depend on the expected losses of respective pools).
  3. Thus, the NBFC sells the pool of Rs 100 crores to PSB, retaining a subordinated 8% share in the same. Bankruptcy remoteness is achieved by true sale of the entire Rs 100 crore pool, with a subordinated share of 8% therein. In bilateral transactions, there is no need to use a trustee; to the extent of the Originator’s subordinated share, the PSB is deemed to be holding the assets in trust for the Originator. Simultaneously, the Originator also retains excess spread over the agreed Coupon Rate with the bank (as discussed below).
  4. Assuming that the fair value (computation of fair value will largely a no-brainer, as the PSB retains principal, and interest only to the extent of its agreed coupon, with the excess spread flowing back to the Originator) comes to the same as the participation of the PSB – 92% or Rs 92 crores, the PSB pays the same to the Originator.
  5. PSB now goes to the GoI and gets the purchase guaranteed by the latter. So, the GoI has guaranteed a purchase of Rs 92 crores, taking a first loss risk of 10% therein, that is, upto Rs 9.20 crores. Notably, for the pool as a whole, the GoI’s share of Rs 9.20 crores becomes a second loss position. However, considering that the GoI is guaranteeing the PSB, the support may technically be called first loss support, with the Originator-level support of Rs 10 crores being separate and independent.
  6. However, it is clear that the sharing of risks between the 3 – the Originator, the GoI and the Bank will be as follows:
  • Losses upto first Rs 8 crores will be taken out of the NBFC’s first loss piece, thereby, implying no risk transfer at all.
  • Losses in excess of Rs 8 crores, but upto a total of Rs 17.20 crores (the GoI guarantee is limited to Rs 9.20 crores), will be taken by GoI.
  • It is only when the loss exceeds Rs 17.20 crores that there is a question of the PSB being hit by losses.
  1. Thus, during the period of the guarantee, the PSB is protected to the extent of 17.2%. Note that first loss piece at the Originator level has been sized up to attain a AA rating. That will mean, higher the risk of the pool, the first loss piece at Originator level will go up to protect the bank.
  2. The PSB, therefore, has dual protection – to the extent of AA rating, from the Originator (or a third party with/without the Originator, as we discuss below), and for the next 10%, from the sovereign.
  3. Now comes the critical question – what will be the coupon rates that the PSB may expect on the pool.
    1. The pool effectively has a sovereign protection. While the protection may seem partial, but it is a tranched protection, and for a AA-rated pool, a 10% thickness of first loss protection is actually far higher than required for the highest degree of safety. What makes the protection even stronger is that the size of the guarantee is fixed at the start of the transaction or start of the financial year, even though the pool continues to amortise, thereby increasing the effective thickness.
    2. Assume risk free rate is R, and the spreads for AAA rated ABS are R +100 bps. Assume that the spreads for AA-rated ABS is R+150 bps.
    3. Given the sovereign protection, the PSB should be able to price the transaction certainly at less than R +100 bps, because sovereign guarantee is certainly safer than AAA. In fact, it should effectively move close to R, but given the other pool risks (prepayment risks, irregular cashflows), one may expect pricing above R.
    4. For the NBFC, the actual cost is the coupon expected by the PSB, plus 25bps paid for the guarantee.
    5. So as long as the coupon rate of the pool for the NBFC is lower than R+75 bps, it is an advantage over a AAA ABS placement. It is to be noted that the NBFC is actually exposing regulatory and economic capital only for the upto-AA risk that it holds.

Win-win for all

If the structure works as above, it is a win-win for all:

  • For the GoI, it is a neat income of 25 bps while virtually taking no real risks. There are 2 strong reasons for this – first, there is a first loss protection by the Originator, to qualify the pool for a AA rating. Secondly, the guarantee is limited only for 2 years. For any pool, first of all, the probability of losses breaching a AA-barrier itself will be close to 1% (meaning, 99% of the cases, the credit support at AA level will be sufficient). This becomes even more emphatic, if we consider the fact that the guarantee will be removed after 2 years. The losses may pile up above the Originator’s protection, but very unlikely that this will happen over 2 years.
  • For the PSB, while getting the benefit of a sovereign guarantee, and therefore, effectively, investing in something which is better than AAA, the PSB may target a spread close to AAA.
  • For the NBFC, it is getting a net advantage in terms of funding cost. Even if the pricing moves close to AAA ABS spreads, the NBFC stands to gain as the regulatory capital eaten up is only what is required for a AA-support.

The overall benefits for the system are immense. There is release of liquidity from the banking system to the economy. Depending on the type of pools Originators will be selling, there may be asset creation in form of home loans, or working capital loans (LAP loans may effectively be that), or loans for transport vehicles. If the GoI objective of buying pools upto Rs 100000 crores gets materialised, as much funding moves from banks to NBFCs, which is obviously already deployed in form of assets. The GoI makes an income of Rs 250 crores for effectively no risk.

In fact, if the GoI gains experience with the Scheme, there may be very good reason for lowering the rating threshold to A level, particularly in case of home loans.

Capital treatment, rating methodologies and other preparations

To make the Scheme really achieve its objectives, there are several preparations that may have to come soon enough:

  • Rating agencies have to develop methodologies for rating this bilateral pool transfer. Effectively, this is nothing but a structured pool transfer, akin to securitisation. Hence, rating methodologies used for securitisation may either be applied as they are, or tweaked to apply to the transfers under the Scheme.
  • Very importantly, the RBI may have to clarify that the AA risk retention by Originators under the Scheme will lead to regulatory capital requirement only upto the risk retained by the NBFC. This should be quite easy for the RBI to do – because there are guidelines for securitisation already, and the Scheme has all features of securitisation, minus the fact that there is no SPV or issuance of “securities” as such.

Conclusion

Whoever takes the first transaction to market will have to obviously do a lot of educating – PSBs, rating agencies, law firms, SIDBI, and of course, DFS. However, the exercise is worth it, and it may not take 6 months as envisaged for the GoI to reach the target of Rs 1 lakh crores.


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GOI’s attempt to ease out liquidity stress of NBFCs and HFCs: Ministry of Finance launches Scheme for Partial Credit Guarantee to PSBs for acquisition of financial assets

Abhirup Ghosh  (abhirup@vinodkothari.com)

The Finance Minister, during the Union Budget 2019-20, promised to introduce a partial credit guarantee scheme so as to extend relief to the NBFC during the on-going liquidity crisis. The proposal laid down in the budget was a very broad statement and were subject to several speculations. At last on 13th August, 2019[1], the Ministry of Finance came out with a press release to announce the notification in this regard dated 10th August, 2019, laying down specifics of the scheme.

The scheme will be known by “Partial Credit Guarantee offered by Government of India (GoI) to Public Sector Banks (PSBs) for purchasing high-rated pooled assets from financially sound Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs)/Housing Finance Companies (HFCs)”, however, for the purpose of this write-up we will use the word “Scheme” for reference.

The Scheme is intended to address temporary asset liability mismatch of solvent HFCs/ NBFCs, owing to the ongoing liquidity crisis in the non-banking financial sector, without having to resort to distress sale of their assets.

In this regard, we intend to discuss the various requirements under the Scheme and analyse its probable impact on the financial sector.

Applicability:

The Scheme has been notified with effect from 10th August, 2019 and will remain open for 6 months from or until the period by which the maximum commitment by the Government in the Scheme is fulfilled, whichever is earlier.

Under the Scheme, the Government has promised to extend first loss guarantee for purchase of assets by PSBs aggregating to ₹ 1 lakh crore. The Government will provide first loss guarantee of 10% of the assets purchased by the purchasing bank.

The Scheme is applicable for assignment of assets in the course of direct assignment to PSBs only. It is not applicable on securitisation transactions.

Also, as we know that in case of direct assignment transactions, the originators are required to retain a certain portion of the asset for the purpose of minimum retention requirement; this Scheme however, applies only to the purchasing bank’s share of assets and not on the originators retained portion. Therefore, if due to default, the originator incurs any losses, the same will not be compensated by virtue of this scheme.

Eligible sellers:

The Scheme lays down criteria to check the eligibility of sellers to avail benefits under this Scheme, and the same are follows:

  1. NBFCs registered with the RBI, except Micro Financial Institutions or Core Investment Companies.
  2. HFCs registered with the NHB.
  3. The NBFC/ HFC must have been able to maintain the minimum regulatory capital as on 31st March, 2019, that is –
    • For NBFCs – 15%
    • For HFCs – 12%
  4. The net NPA of the NBFC/HFC must not have exceeded 6% as on 31st March, 2019
  5. The NBFC/ HFC must have reported net profit in at least one out of the last two preceding financial years, that is, FY 2017-18 and FY 2018-19.
  6. The NBFC/ HFC must not have been reported as a Special Mention Account (SMA) by any bank during year prior to 1st August, 2018.

Some observations on the eligibility criteria are:

  1. Asset size of NBFCs for availing benefits under the Scheme: The Scheme does not provide for any asset size requirement for an NBFC to be qualified for this Scheme, however, one of the requirement is that the financial institution must have maintained the minimum regulatory capital requirement as on 31st March, 2019. Here it is important to note that requirement to maintain regulatory capital, that is capital risk adequacy ratio (CRAR), applies only to systemically important NBFCs.

Only those NBFCs whose asset size exceeds Rs. 500 crores singly or jointly with assets of other NBFCs in the group are treated as systemically important NBFCs. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the benefits under this Scheme can be availed only by those NBFCs which – a) are required to maintained CRAR, and b) have maintained the required amount of capital as on 31st March, 2019, subject to the fulfilment of other conditions.

  1. Financial health of originator after 1st August, 2018 – The eligibility criteria for sellers state that the financial institution must not have been reported as SMA by any bank any time during 1 year prior to 1st August, 2018, the apparent question that arises here is what happens if the originator moves into SMA status after the said date. If we go by the letters of the Scheme, if a financial institution satisfies the condition before 1st August, 2018 but becomes SMA thereafter, it will still be eligible as per the Scheme. This makes the situation a little awkward as the whole intention of the Scheme was to facilitate financially sound financial institutions. This seems to be an error on the part of the Government, and it surely must not have meant to situations such as the one discussed above. We can hopefully expect an amendment in this regard from the Government.

Eligible assets

Pool of assets satisfying the following conditions can be assigned under the Scheme:

  1. The asset must have been originated on or before 31st March, 2019.
  2. The asset must be classified as standard in the books of the NBFC/ HFC as on the date of the sale.
  3. The pool of assets should have a minimum rating of “AA” or equivalent at fair value without the credit guarantee from the Government.
  4. Each account under the pooled assets should have been fully disbursed and security charge should have been created in favour of the originating NBFCs/ HFCs.
  5. NBFCs/HFCs can sell up to a maximum of 20% of their standard assets as on 31.3.2019 subject to a cap of Rs. 5,000 crore at fair value. Any additional amount above the cap of Rs. 5,000 crore will be considered on pro ratabasis, subject to availability of headroom.
  6. The individual asset size in the pool must not exceed Rs. 5 crore.
  7. The following types of loans are not eligible for assignment for the purposes of this Scheme:
    1. Revolving credit facilities;
    2. Assets purchased from other entities; and
  • Assets with bullet repayment of both principal and interest

Our observations on the eligibility criteria are as follows:

  1. Rating of the pool: The Scheme states that the pools assigned should be highly rated, that is, should have ratings of AA or equivalent prior to the guarantee. Technically, pool of assets are not rated, it is the security which is rated based on the risks and rewards of the underlying pools. Therefore, it is to be seen how things will unfold. Also, desired rating in the present case is quite high; if an originator is able to secure such a high rating, it might not require the assistance under this Scheme in the first place. And, the fact that the originators will have to pay guarantee commission of 25 bps. Therefore, only where the originators are able to secure a significantly lower cost from the banks for a higher rating, that would also cover the commission paid, will this Scheme be viable; let alone be the challenges of achieving an AA rating of the pool.
  2. Cut-off date of loan origination to be 31st March, 2019: As per the RBI Guidelines on Securitisation and Direct Assignment, the originators have to comply with minimum holding requirements. The said requirement suggests that an asset can be sold off only if it has remained in the books of the originator for at least 6 months. This Scheme has come into force with effect from 10th August, 2019 and will remain open for 6 months from the commencement.

Considering that already 5 months since the cut-off date has already passed, even if we were to assume that the loan is originated on the cut-off date itself, it would mean that closer to the end of the tenure of the Scheme, the loan will be 11 months seasoning. Such high seasoning requirements might not be motivational enough for the originators to avail this Scheme.

  1. Maximum cap on sell down of receivables: The Scheme has put a maximum cap on the amount of assets that can be assigned and that is an amount equal to 20% of the outstanding standard assets as on 31st March, 2019, however, the same is capped to Rs. 5000 crores.

It is pertinent to note that the Scheme also allows additional sell down of loans by the originators, beyond the maximum cap, however, the same shall depend on the available headroom and based on decisions of the Government.

Invocation of guarantee and guarantee commission

Guarantee commission

As already stated earlier, in order to avail benefits under this Scheme, the originator will have to incur a fee of 25 basis points on the amount guaranteed by the Government. However, the payment of the same shall have to be routed through the purchasing bank.

Invocation of guarantee

The guarantee can be invoked any time during the first 24 months from the date of assignment, if the interest/ principal has remained overdue for a period of more than 90 days.

Consequent upon a default, the purchasing bank can invoke the guarantee and recover its entire exposure from the Government. It can continue to recover its losses from the Government, until the upper cap of 10% of the total portfolio is reached. However, the purchasing bank will not be able to recover the losses if – (a) the pooled assets are bought back by the concerned NBFCs/HFCs or (b) sold by the purchasing bank to other entities.

The claims of the purchasing bank will be settled with 5 working days from the date of claim by the Government.

However, if the purchasing bank, by any means, recovers the amount subsequent to the invocation of the guarantee, it will have to refund the amount recovered or the amount received against the guarantee to the Government within 5 working days from the date of recovery. Where the amount recovered is more than amount of received as guarantee, the excess collection will be retained by the purchasing bank.

Other features of the Scheme

  1. Reporting requirement – The Scheme provides for a real-time reporting mechanism for the purchasing banks to understand the remaining headroom for purchase of such pooled assets. The Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance would obtain the requisite information in a prescribed format from the PSBs and send a copy to the budget division of DEA, however, the manner and format of reporting has not been notified yet.
  2. Option to buy-back the loans – The Scheme allows the originator to retain an option to buy back its assets after a specified period of 12 months as a repurchase transaction, on a right of first refusal basis. This however, is contradictory to the RBI Guidelines on Direct Assignment, as the same does not allow any option to repurchase the pool in a DA transaction.
  3. To-do for the NBFCs/ HFCs – In order to avail the benefits under the Scheme, the following actionables have to be undertaken:
    1. The Asset Liability structure should restructured within three months to have positive ALM in each bucket for the first three months and on cumulative basis for the remaining period;
    2. At no time during the period for exercise of the option to buy back the assets, should the CRAR go below the regulatory minimum. The promoters shall have to ensure this by infusing equity, where required.

[1] http://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=192618

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