Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lend but don’t call back

Looks like India has its own subprime disaster in the making. ICICI Bank recently took the unprecedented step of paying Rs 15.5 lakh in the form of fixed deposit and insurance covers to the family members of a Mumbai borrower who committed suicide allegedly after being harassed by recovery agents of the bank, there was a case of recovery agents being beaten up when they approached a borrower to ask for payment against overdue amounts.

Until recently, personal loans were one of the most sought after segment by banks after they found that individual lenders default rates were far lesser than corporates and other organized borrowers. They relied on agents to press recovery from defaulters and mostly it worked. Now this segment has also crept up to `organized’ category – at least in beating up recovery agents that come calling – the threat of willful default looms large even by those who can afford to repay.

Time to short banks? ICICI, HDFC, Indusind, Centurion Bank of Punjab have all built up a good deal of personal loan books. Great shorting bets, I guess…

What do you think…?

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