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Axis Bank to now raise up to $1 billion via overseas AT1 issue

Axis Bank to now raise up to $1 billion via overseas AT1 issue

25 Aug 2021

MUMBAI: Axis Bank joins its bigger peer HDFC Bank in selling Additional Tier 1 (AT1) bonds overseas, seeking to garner up to $1 billion in ESG-compliant instruments that should help the Mumbai-based private sector lender reduce its financing costs.

The ‘ESG’ (Environment Social Green) tag should lower the coupon in this round of offering by about 15 basis points, compared with the usual AT1 sales by similarly rated entities, four people familiar with the matter told ET. ESG funds are deployed in green and sustainable projects.

The bank has appointed about 10 investment bankers, including HSBC, Citi, MUFG, JP Morgan, Bank of America, Standard Chartered and Societe Generale.

Axis Bank did not reply to ET’s query. Investment banks couldn’t immediately be reached for comments.

Axis Bank is seeking to raise between $600 million and $1 billion depending on investor demand and pricing.

The initial price guidance could be in the range of 4-4.20 per cent, which would have been higher without the ESG tag, sources said. The ultimate pricing could be lower than the broad initial guidance.

Axis Bank

The issue is expected to be launched in a week or two from Gujarat GIFT City depending on the outcome of the Jackson Hole policy meeting in the US, sources said.

“If Jackson Hole does not spring any negative surprise, roadshows are expected to begin from next week,” one of the persons cited above told ET.

The US Federal Reserve will hold its annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this Friday on August 27.

Earlier this month, HDFC Bank raised $1 billion amid overwhelming investor response.

Due to high demand, the pricing of those bonds was tightened by 43 basis points from the initial guidance to 3.70 per cent.

Axis Bank will have to offer more than this as the lender may be rated at least one notch lower than the HDFC Bank’s grade. Axis AT1 is expected to be graded as B+ or B, dealers said. The rating isn’t finalized yet.

Global rating company Moody’s rated them as Ba3 (or BB- in simple rating terminology), three notches below the deposit ratings.

A single notch by way of a lower rating can trigger a price differential of 50 basis points for a similar instrument, dealers said.

“The proposed ESG compliant papers will help cut the additional funding cost while creating space for expanding loans for sustainable projects,” said a senior executive involved in the deal.

AT-1 bonds are billed as quasi-equity securities that bear a higher risk of capital losses. Those are generally rated three-to-four notches lower than an issuer’s corporate credit rating.

Axis Bank’s overall capital adequacy ratio (CAR) was at 19.01 per cent in the June quarter with the CET1 (Common Equity) ratio at 15.2 per cent, much above the threshold limit.

Those gauges were at 17.47 per cent and 13.50 per cent, respectively, in the corresponding period a year ago.

The principal and any accrued interest would be written down, partially or in full, if Axis Bank’s CET1 ratio slips to 6.125 per cent later this year.