Indian non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) are stepping up their offshore fundraising drive with Bajaj Finance and Tata Capital Financial Services the latest borrowers to turn to overseas lenders amid an ongoing liquidity squeeze at home.
Bajaj Finance has mandated eight banks on a $575-million syndicated loan, the largest debut deal of the year from the NBFC sector, while Tata Capital Financial Services launched a $135-million borrowing last week.
Both three-year loans are debut borrowings targeting yen and dollar liquidity among international lenders. Japanese banks, in particular, are hungry for higher-yielding assets, and bankers expect the yen option will increase the two borrowers' chances of success.
“These borrowers will be able to access liquidity beyond the dollar market,” said a Singapore-based loans banker referring to Bajaj Finance and Tata Capital Financial Services. “Similarly, Japanese regional lenders are keen to join deals that offer far better pricing than their domestic market.”
The latest offshore financings, however, come as India’s NBFC sector is reeling from a string of defaults and credit scares that began with missed payments from Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services in September last year.
Tight onshore liquidity is driving NBFCs into the overseas bond and loan markets in search of funding, but loans from the sector have met mixed results.
A $250 million-equivalent three-year debut loan for retail finance company Fullerton India Credit has attracted 10 banks, while L&T Finance made a lacklustre debut with only one bank joining its $375m dual-tranche borrowing a few weeks back.
The NBFC liquidity crisis may be getting worse. Among the major players, Dewan Housing Finance defaulted in June, and last month, Reliance Capital and subsidiary Reliance Commercial Finance and Altico Capital India were hit with rating downgrades after missed interest payments.
The Reliance entities are units of embattled Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), while Altico counts Clearwater Capital Partners, Abu Dhabi Investment Council and Varde Partners among its shareholders.
According to a Fitch report on October 3, small-to-medium sized NBFCs with large, long-tenor construction finance portfolios have been the most affected compared to the large asset finance and consumer finance companies that are controlled by bigger corporates.
“Following the IL&FS event, NBFCs with larger asset-liability gaps — mainly housing finance and certain wholesale NBFCs — are seeing more challenges in refinancing,” said Jonathan Lee, managing director at Fitch.
Understandably, international lenders have been selective in taking exposure to Indian NBFCs. Strong parentage undoubtedly adds to the appeal, but is not a passport to syndication success.
This was evident in the contrasting outcomes for the Fullerton India and L&T Finance loans.
Fullerton India benefited from the halo of its indirect parent, Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, while L&T Finance floundered despite the pedigree of its parent, Indian conglomerate Larsen & Toubro.
Furthermore, L&T Finance’s loan had the International Finance Corp as one of the leads on the $250 million portion and sole lender on a $125 million five-year piece.