SBI net up 4%, smallest increase in six quarters

Mounting pressure of bad loans and muted growth in interest on loans weighed heavily on State Bank of India's profitability in the October-December quarter of the current fiscal. Net profit rose at a slower pace by 4 per cent year-on-year to Rs 3,396 crore on the back of lower net interest income (the difference

between interest earned and paid out), which declined nearly 3 per cent on an annual basis to Rs 11,154 crore during the quarter.

Profits were boosted largely by 'other income', which zoomed more than 75 per cent year-on-year to Rs 3,648 crore. While SBI expanded its loan book nearly 16 per cent to Rs 9.78 lakh crore, gross non-performing asset ratio increased to 5.30 per cent (at Rs 53,460 crore) as against 5.15 per cent in the July-September quarter, suggesting that asset quality woes continue to be a worry.

During the quarter, the bank's operating profit grew 7.3 per cent from a year earlier as it made a profit of Rs 418 crore on sale of investments, compared with a loss of Rs 1,080 crore a year ago. As a result, it was able to show a Rs 1,575 crore increase under the 'other income' head.

Even as advances surged 16 per cent on an annual basis, the bank added Rs 4,255 crore to bad loans in the December quarter, compared with Rs 2,016 crore in the July-September quarter. As a consequence, gross non-performing assets as a ratio of total loans shot up to 5.3 per cent at the end of December. Besides, fresh slippages totalled Rs 8,175 crore compared with Rs 7,106 crore in the September quarter.

SBI chairman Pratip Chaudhuri attributed the rise in bad loans to slowing economic growth, high interest rates, difficulties faced by government in paying contractors and also some sector-specific issues such as iron and steel segment due to mining scams.

Chaudhuri reiterated that the worst is over for his bank on asset quality and added that up to Rs 2,000 crore of the NPA has already turned standard as of December.

"NPAs have peaked. What gives us comfort is that sectors like textiles, construction and roads are picking up," he said.

Shares of SBI closed at Rs 2,214.35 per share, down 1.80 per cent over the previous close, on the BSE.

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