Kotak Bank's rollercoaster: From setbacks to a surging Q4

Kotak Bank’s standalone operations accounted for 75.6% of the group net profit for FY24. (File Photo: Reuters)
Kotak Bank’s standalone operations accounted for 75.6% of the group net profit for FY24. (File Photo: Reuters)

Summary

  • Kotak Mahindra Bank's Q4 performance signals resilience amid setbacks. Its future trajectory hinges on regulatory clarity and strategic agility

Kotak Mahindra Bank has been under scrutiny lately following a couple of setbacks.

Towards the end of April, the Reserve Bank of India asked the lender to stop onboarding customers through its online and mobile banking channels, and also barred it from issuing fresh credit cards, following scrutiny of its IT operations spanning 2022 and 2023.

Additionally, Kotak announced the resignation of its joint managing director KVS Manian, who had been with the bank for almost three decades and was in the race to be its chief executive.

In the aftermath of RBI's intervention, Kotak witnessed a sharp decline in its share price, which plummeted from a high of 1,846 on 24 April to 1,544 by 3 May, just ahead of the release of the bank's March-quarter results (Q4FY24), all within a span of six trading sessions.

The Q4 results, announced on Saturday, came as a relief, boasting robust performance propelled by a surge in fee income. Investors responded positively, driving the stock up by 5% on Monday.

Kotak Bank’s results have to be analyzed on a standalone basis, as some of its subsidiaries like insurance have different dynamics and need to be valued on separate parameters. The bank’s standalone operations accounted for 75.6% of the group net profit for FY24, thus necessitating deeper understanding.

For Q4FY24, net interest income (NII) grew almost 11% year-on-year to 6,767 crore on a standalone basis after excluding the interest on income tax refund of 142 crore. The growth in NII is even more impressive considering that the bank’s credit-to-deposits ratio at 84% is not stretched and deposit mobilization was healthy.

The robust deposit mobilization gives headroom to grow advances over the next couple of quarters when deposit growth could get affected by the RBI restriction for sourcing new customer business digitally. In the earnings call, the management indicated a potential operating profit hit of 300-450 crore in FY25 due to the RBI ban.

Meanwhile, Kotak’s core fee based other income grew about 30% year-on-year in Q4FY24 to 2,841 crore with impressive increase across distribution, syndication and general banking fees. Core pre-provisioning operating profit excluding trading and mark-to-market on treasury rose by 11.4% to 5,182 crore.

Asset quality continues to be sound with net non-performing assets (NPAs) at less than 0.5%, in line with most of the leading banks. But the key differentiating factor in favour of the bank is its return on assets, which at 2.6% for FY24 is one of the sector’s best. This was aided by a solid net interest margin of 5.3% along with a high share of fee income at nearly 23% of total income.

The only blemish in terms of consolidated results is Kotak Mahindra AMC’s lacklustre show where net profit fell in FY24 despite an increase in average assets under management of equity funds.

As such, Kotak stock's positive reaction to the results is on expected lines. Still, the shares are down 11% since the RBI ban. In short, the stock's future course would hinge on clarity on RBI’s regulatory stance. RBI’s lifting of curbs will help in repairing reputational damage, although the timeline for this cannot be predicted.

Read This: Kotak Bank's Vaswani concerned about reputational impact of RBI order

Here, it’s worth noting that the RBI lifted restrictions on loan products of Bajaj Finance within six months of their imposition, following satisfactory corrective measures. While there may be distinctions in how the RBI approaches non-banking finance companies versus banks, this holds significance as it raises optimism for Kotak Bank to swiftly address RBI restrictions through prompt corrective actions, unlike HDFC Bank, which took over a year to resolve regulatory concerns.

Also Read: Behind KVS Manian's sudden exit from Kotak Mahindra Bank

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