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The impact of the second Covid wave has raised concerns over the recovery of the microfinance (MFIs) and the small NBFC sector, which was already battling the elevated credit stress and declining AUM in FY21.

Accordingly, out of thirteen issuer downgrades by credit rating agencies during Q1FY22 in the financial sector, ten issuers are smaller MFI and NBFCs engaged in providing unsecured MSME loans, and personal and vehicle loans.

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A report by Acute Ratings said that collection efficiencies which were seen recovering above 90 percent in Mar-21, have dropped to between 65-85 percent levels during Q1FY22.

“Besides the lower collections, the debt raising ability of these smaller players has been impacted with an estimated 50 percent of players (having a loan portfolio of more than 500 crores) having received adequate funds.”

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“Relief measures provided by the government and RBI recently is expected to support the continuity of credit flow to microfinance and MSME borrowers while also enhance liquidity relief to the smaller lenders.”

Furthermore, it said that the second wave of Covid has been more pronounced on collections in the asset classes of microfinance and two-wheeler loans than in the first cycle.

“Even as two-wheeler as an asset class fared better during the first wave of lockdowns, the impact has been greater during the second cycle on account of the spread of the pandemic in rural areas and the stress on the borrowers’ cash flows due to loss of income as well as high medical expenses,” said Suman Chowdhury, Chief Analytical Officer, Acuite Ratings & Research.

“Given the intermittent nature of economic activities in the wake of Covid spread in Q1FY22, the borrower income streams, particularly of those serviced by smaller NBFCs or MFIs have been severely impacted, thereby exacerbating the asset quality stress for these lenders.”

However, the report added that the absence of a moratorium has made the borrower stress more visible in this cycle and along with the lack of adequate funding, the deterioration in liquidity and therefore credit quality for smaller NBFCs and MFIs was almost inevitable.

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