* Net profit 38.94 bln rupees vs 39.38 bln rupees estimate
* Gross non-performing loan ratio widens to 1.24 pct
* Agriculture sector delinquencies drive non-performing loans
* HDFC Bank shares end up almost 2 percent (Adds details from news conference)
By Devidutta Tripathy and Tanvi Mehta
MUMBAI/BENGALURU, July 24 (Reuters) - India’s HDFC Bank Ltd said it was waiting for details on farm loan waiver plans announced by several states, after recording higher provisions driven by delinquencies in its agriculture loan book over the first quarter.
Four key Indian states including Uttar Pradesh, which has a population around the same size as Brazil’s, have recently said they would waive off billions of dollars in farm loans to offer relief to farmers reeling from losses caused by bad weather.
While the state governments will absorb the impact of the waivers, industry experts warn this could distort credit culture and pile up pressure on India’s banking sector where bad loans hit a record $150 billion in December.
HDFC Bank, India’s No.2 lender by assets, on Monday said sour loans to the farming sector accounted for about 60 percent of the increase in its gross non-performing loans during the three months to June, leading to higher provisions.
“We believe that a fair portion of this impact does reflect changed customer behaviour in anticipation of loan waivers which were announced,” the bank’s deputy managing director, Paresh Sukthankar, told reporters at a briefing after the company posted a 20 percent rise in its quarterly profit. Most other loan portfolios remained in line with past quarters, he added.
“We’ll have to see how things pan out in terms of there being clarity on what are the waivers and what therefore are customers, farmers, going to be able to repay,” he said.
For the three months to June 30, HDFC bank reported a net profit to 38.94 billion rupees ($605 million), versus 32.39 billion rupees a year ago, but slightly short of an estimate of 39.38 billion rupees from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Gross non-performing loans as a percentage of total loans rose to 1.24 percent at end-June, from 1.05 percent at end-March, and 1.04 percent a year earlier.
Provisions for bad loans surged about 61.4 percent from a year earlier to 13.43 billion rupees in the June quarter.
The money set aside by the bank for bad loans was a little more than what was required by the regulator, Sukthankar said, adding that the gross non-performing loan ratio recorded in June was “certainly at the higher end”.
He declined to give a specific guidance for loan growth for the year, but said the bank had seen healthy growth in both retail and the wholesale segments.
With its consistent profit growth and strong focus on retail, HDFC Bank has stood out among Indian lenders which are battling slower loan growth and a surge in soured assets. It has grown loans at a much faster pace than the industry average and has the lowest bad loans among the country’s leading banks.
Shares of the bank, valued at more than $68 billion, closed up 1.9 percent. The stock has risen over 40 percent this year, outperforming the main market index and the sector index . ($1 = 64.3850 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy and Tanvi Mehta; Editing by Himani Sarkar)