Friday, July 31, 2009

Most banks unlikely to reduce lending rates

Few bankers might take a call of RBI and will marginally reduce their lending rates but most of the banks are unwilling to do it. As per general accord the rates are likely to increase from the next calendar year.

On the other hand RBI governor D Subbarao is definite about the cut in lending rates even though the policy rates are not revised. He pointed out, “There is scope for reduction of lending rates within the policy rate adjustment already done by RBI... The lending rate should have come down to 9.5% but they are now at around 10.5% and above so there is scope for banks to reduce lending rates. We have also said that as deposits contracted at higher rates mature and get repriced, the cost of funds will go down for banks and they can reduce lending rates further”.

But a host of bankers on Tuesday communicated to the governor that it is not possible for them to bring down lending rates from their current levels. At the time of interaction with the RBI governor, CEOs of some of the bigger banks informed that net interest margins are under pressure. They also said that although banks have reduced the interest rates for borrowers, corporates have abstained from reducing the cost of their products.

Bankers informed RBI it is clear from the first quarter results that companies expenses on account of ‘interest paid to lenders’ have declined over the preceding and year-earlier quarters, which indicates that the cost of funds for corporates has come down.

MV Nair, CMD of Union Bank of India told ET, “Banks have passed on the benefit of easing interest rates to borrowers”. “Going forward, interest rates are not likely to fall from their current levels.”

Chanda Kochhar, MD & CEO, ICICI Bank, said, “We have cut our prime lending rate by 1.5%, the maximum by any private sector bank. Going forward, the rates would be dependent on credit growth. The rates currently are likely to be stable with a very minimal downward bias.”

Neeraj Swaroop, regional CEO (India & South Asia), Standard Chartered Bank added, “Over 90% of our lending is not linked to BPLR and judging our interest rates by BPLR doesn’t reflect the actual situation. Our rates have come down as much as the market rates have come down. We keep reviewing our BPLR from time to time.”

However, some anonymous bankers, informed reduction in lending rates is likely to happen but marginal at 25 bps. M Narandran, ED, Bank of India pointed out, “We do not expect any changes in interest rates immediately. Historically, there is a time lag in terms of repricing of deposits. Therefore, a reduction in lending rates can happen only at a later date. Meanwhile, we feel that rates have almost bottomed out, given that inflation is expected to rise in the second half coupled with high chances of pick-up in credit”.

Majority of the bank CEOs told the governor that credit has risen. According to private and foreign bankers BPLR has lost its relevance. An official from Axis Bank said, “The borrower owes us no loyalty. If our rates are not competitive, they will go to some other bank. There are very few loans which are linked to the BPLR”.

Co-operative Bank plans to offer loans at zero interest rate to SHGs & farmers

The Pune district central co-operative bank (PDCCB) is planning to offer loans at zero per cent interest rate to self-help groups and farmers. The final decision will be taken in the annual general body meeting which is scheduled to be held on July 27, this was informed by Baban Bhegade, chairman of PDCCB during the news conference.

Bhegade informed the general body meeting will be attended by district guardian minister Ajit Pawar, the issue of funds of Rs 279.95 crore that the bank is yet to receive from the Union and the state governments under the debt waiver and relief schemes will also be taken up in the meeting.

Bhegade informed, "There are other important issues of loan disbursement to self-help groups which will be discussed during the meeting. The bank is planning to offer loans to self-help groups with zero per cent interest and also to other like farmers."

Explaining further, he said SHGs have small capital income, thus it becomes difficult for SHGs to manage if any interest burden is put upon it. He added, "To encourage them for the first few years, the bank is planning to give loans without any interest. But, the final decision would be taken at the meeting with the consent of the members".

Regarding the funds to be received from the state and Union governments, Bhegade stated after the Union government announced debt waiver and debt relief scheme in February 2008, the state government following on the lines of the Union government also announced a similar scheme for farmers in Maharashtra. "But, both the governments have released funds under the schemes partially," he said.

Bhegade informed, "The PDCCB and its allied co-operative banks and credit societies have cleared the debt accounts of farmers whose applications have been approved by the Union and state governments. Hence, those farmers are eligible for fresh loans. The bank has also disbursed loans to such farmers". "The approved amount under the Union government's debt waiver scheme was Rs 404.15 crore of which Rs 334.72 crore has been received by the bank. Of the Rs 120.78 crore under the debt relief scheme, the bank has not received a single rupee from the Union government."

Bhegade further added, "Under the debt waiver scheme of the state, the PDCCB has received Rs 52.82 crore, which is 100 per cent of the approved amount. But, in the debt relief scheme, of the approved Rs 110.91 crore, the bank has received only Rs 20.17 crore till date."

Bhegade explained, “Despite the gap in account, the bank has recorded Rs 20 crore net profits in the last financial year”.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lakshmi Vilas Bank customers get mobile payment solutions

An agreement has been signed between private sector bank Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB) and the Mumbai-based wireless transaction platform provider PayMate India. PayMate India is offering mobile payment solutions to the banks’ customers.

According to bank release under this agreement Lakshmi Vilas Bank customer through PayMate platform can pay for utility bills, movie and flight tickets and make online purchases etc by using their mobile.

PayMate MD and Founder Ajay Adiseshann explained, "Our alliance with Lakshmi Vilas Bank will further bolster our payments ecosystem. Further, we are excited to bring mobile payments to LVB's customers and are confident that the sheer convenience of using their phones to make payments will drive the uptake and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty".

Monday, July 13, 2009

Yes Bank to steadily increase its retail business

Yes Bank has planned to steadily increase its presence in retail business. Earlier bank has purposely maintained a low-key presence in the retail market, now is planning to increase exposure in this segment.

Rana Kapoor, managing director and chief executive officer, Yes Bank, stated, “At present, our core strength lies in financing to companies — large, mid-sized as well as small. As far as our retail portfolio is concerned, we deliberately kept it low as there are too many banks providing such services. But as our presence grows, we will start focusing on the retail portfolio”.

When asked is the bank planning to foray into housing loan and car loan segments, Kapoor replied, “We certainly plan to foray into these two segments of retail lending. But before we go for it, we will try to increase our presence in across the country.”

Currently Yes Bank is lending mainly to big companies followed by mid-size companies and the small-scale sector. At present bank’s retail portfolio is merely 1% of its total loan portfolio, including mainly personal loans. In the business segment Yes Bank main focus is on the transportation sector, including roads and railways; power sector, mainly renewable energy; telecom and agri-infrastructure among others.

The bank is also planning to tap the capital market within a year by ensuing public offer, mainly to collect funds for its expansion plan.

The bank is in the process of expansion of its branch network and proposes to open about 130 branches by the end of the next year. Currently bank is having 120 branches and plans to open around 400 more branches by the end of 2012. By 2015, Yes Bank wants to increase the number of branches to 750.

The bank has also decided to hire at least 900 people, including 500 as managerial staff in the present financial year, after which its total employee strength will increase to 3,600. By 2015, bank aims to increase its employee strength by 10,000.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Banks ask for more time for NPA recast

Banks have asked for more time for the completion of the process of restructuring bad loans.
In the pre-Credit Policy meeting with the Reserve Bank of India officials, banks have requested for extension of the deadline for restructuring of bad loans to December 31. The original deadline was set for June 30.

Dr K. Ramakrishnan, Chief Executive, Indian Banks’ Association, said banks are finding it difficult to complete the restructuring process, as they have to process all proposals received till March-end. Especially loans given in group lending are difficult. Therefore banks have requested the RBI to extend the time till December 31 to complete the restructuring process, he said.
Last year, the RBI prudential guidelines on restructuring of advances were issued for the banks in order to help the industry overcome spill-over effects of the global downturn. The spill-over effects can be seen affecting the economy mainly from September 2008 creating pressure for the otherwise viable units/ activities.

As per the guidelines, special regulatory treatment was extended to commercial real estate exposures restructured for the first time as well as to exposures (other than commercial real estate, capital markets and personal/ consumer loans) which was feasible but were facing temporary cash flow problems and needed a second restructuring.

Bank chiefs who attended the meeting also explained to the RBI that credit growth is limp. However, there is more disbursal in the housing sectors. Funds are being taken by some mid-corporates for capex therefore credit offtake is likely to pick up over the next two quarters, Dr Ramakrishnan stated.

Bankers are positive that the 20 per cent credit growth, as predicted by the RBI in the annual monetary policy, will be achieved by the end of the fiscal.

Bankers have also asked the RBI to review at some of the provisioning norms. For instance, banks have requested for differential provisioning across various segments depending on the security, instead of a standard provisioning.

Banks, in the case of infrastructure projects also, have asked for relaxation in some of the provisioning norms in case the project is not ready on the date of completion. Dr Ramakrishnan pointed out in case the special purpose vehicle of a particular company defaults in a payment, then the whole corporate should not be treated as an NPA. Regarding the interest rate, the RBI has taken note of the periodic rate cuts announced by some banks.

Addressing the presspersons after the meeting, Mr O.P. Bhatt, Chairman, State Bank of India, said, “At the moment, the interest rate scenario is soft. May be for some industry players, softening could take place... small room is there. Six months down the line, when credit growth picks up and all the (government) borrowing takes place, it could stabilise there or harden.”
Dr Ramakrishnan said the RBI has also certain bank chiefs that the additional government borrowing will not put any restriction on liquidity.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Govt. offer incentive for farmers of 1% rate cut for timely payment

To control the rising bad loans in banks in agriculture portfolio the government has announced incentives for farmers who have been repaying their dues on time. According to this the reliable borrowers will now pay an interest of 6% instead of 7% on short-term crop loans up to Rs 3 lakh.

Up till now the government had offered an interest rate financial support of 3% on short-term crop loans to farmers. This means it paid banks the difference between the actual loan rate of (10%) and the rate offered to the farmer. Now in the budget this subsidy has been increased to 4%, for which the government has set aside Rs 411 crore

MV Nair, CMD of Union Bank of India and chairman of IBA said, “This was one of the proposals made by the Indian Banks’ Association to incentives farmers who made payments on time, but did not get benefits of the FY09 Budget because the farm loan waiver was mainly aimed at those farmers who had not paid their dues to banks”. However last year Union Bank of India by itself had reduced interest rate by 50 bps to 6.5% for those farmers who repaid loans on time.

On the other hand country’s largest lender, the State Bank of India (SBI), witnessed rise of Rs 3,079 crore in the bad loans in the agriculture sector because of the Rs 71,000-crore loan waiver announced in last year’s Budget. As a result of this even those farmers who were not entitled to the waiver, stopped repaying loans, due to which NPAs for many banks moved up sharply.

AC Mahajan, CMD of Canara Bank, pointed out, “This move will bring more discipline among farmers to pay on time and will also reward prompt payment. This will also send out a message that they should not be misled by vested interests who lead them to believe in gains by non-payment of dues.”

Besides from the increased financial support, the government has also taken decision of extending the deadline for one-time settlement of farmers’ dues. In the last Budget, farmers with over two hectares of land were allotted a time period up to June 30, 2009, to repay 75% of their dues and an exemption for the rest. Now this period has been extended by six months to December 31, 2009.

Moreover to make possible for the students from economically weaker sections to take up higher education, the government has decided to provide full interest subsidy during the period of freeze. Under this loans will be covered taken by these students to pursue approved courses from recognized institutions in India.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Five Indian banks listed among top 1,000 world banks ranking

The trade magazine ‘The Banker’ a part of the Financial Times group that has been carrying the rankings since 1970, has compiled a list of the world’s top 1,000 banks for the year 2009; the five Indian banks have been able to make their position in the list.

Banks capital is the core measure to know about bank’s financial strength that includes largely of shareholders’ capital. The two of Indian banks – State Bank of India is positioned at 64th position and ICICI Bank Ltd is figured at 81st position among the top 100 by tier I capital.

While Punjab National Bank, HDFC Bank Ltd and Bank of India are positioned at 239, 242 and 263, respectively in the list to be published in the July issue of ‘The Banker’.

The latest list is being published after the financial maelstrom faced by the global banking industry last year where the US and Europe governments had to rescue banks by funding them with hundreds of billions of dollars.

As per the magazine records last year banking profits had declined by 85.3% from $780.8 billion in 2007 to $115 billion and return on equity had dropped from 20% to 2.69%.

According to capital strength JP Morgan Chase and Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Royal Bank of Scotland Plc. and HSBC Holdings Plc. are the top five banks in the list. Among the five top banks, HSBC is the only banks that did not receive any government support.

The Banks which wedged to the basics, taking deposits and lending in their home markets, were the best. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, followed by China Construction Bank and Spain’s Banco Santander SA attained maximum profits.

In a press statement magazine’s editor Brian Caplen told, “In future banks will be run much more conservatively”. “Regulators will require them to hold more capital and be less leveraged. This will reduce the profits of the industry as a whole but will bring about a safer banking system.”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

SBI plans to become leading foreign bank in select nations, Mauritius

After maintaining number one position in India the State Bank of India is planning to be a leading foreign bank in selective nations, including Mauritius.

A senior SBI official informed, "Plans are in place to be the dominant foreign bank in few identified countries such as Mauritius, Singapore and Nepal".

SBI aims to have a major share in India-related business in high potential markets world wide.

He told working on the same line last fiscal the two of the bank's subsidiaries in Mauritius were merged to form a new entity called SBI (Mauritius) Ltd.

To create a new entity SBI (Mauritius) Ltd the bank's two partly owned subsidiaries in Mauritius namely Indian Ocean International Bank Ltd and SBI International (Mauritius) Ltd were merged.

He informed Bank of Mauritius sanctioned the scheme of merger from April 1, 2008.

He added as a result after the merger the SBI's share in SBI (Mauritius) Ltd has reduced from 98 per cent to 93.40 per cent.

Simultaneously, in the Nepal joint venture also SBI increased its share to 55 per cent from 50 per cent earlier.

SBI acquired 5 per cent stake of Nepal SBI Ltd through a competitive bid process from Agricultural Development Bank.

In the previous fiscal year SBI had funded 21 outbound merger and acquisition deals by Indian companies but in 2008-09, bank provided funds for 22 deals.

Moreover SBI is also planning to increase its presence in countries including the UK and the UAE which are having strong links with India.

He said, "Initiatives (are) under way to strengthen business in countries with a strong India linkage like the US, the UK and the UAE".

At present, SBI is having seven branches in the US and about six in the UK and in United Arab Emirates (UAE) the bank is having exchange services.

He told SBI also has a proposal to become a major bank for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) for their banking needs and added the process is going on to restructure the international business to enable new business model.

In 2008-09, the SBI international credit portfolio grew up by 54 per cent to Rs 86,267 crore from Rs 56,196 crore in the previous year. He pointed out there is considerable credit growth in spite of the global meltdown.

Also, last year bank along with its subsidiaries and joint ventures abroad opened nine offices, as well as full-fledged retail operations in Singapore, last year.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Andhra Bank launched bank’s new mascot & new corporate slogan

Andhra Bank, a state run lender has introduced a major brand-building plan by promoting a new mascot and also a new corporate slogan with an aim of growing its business to Rs 1.50 lakh crore by September 2010 through its expansion across the country.

Andhra Bank Chairman and Managing Director R S Reddy today launched bank’s new mascot Dolle, a "friendly, intelligent and responsive" dolphin. And 'For all your needs' – with a graphic ‘enter’ key the bank’s new corporate slogan.

At the launch Reddy told reporters, "Our new mascot and the corporate slogan symbolize the value system that Andhra Bank has been known for. We will now spread our wings across the country by opening more branches over the next one year and take the business to Rs 1.50 lakh crore from the present Rs one lakh crore."

Andhra Bank, is having 1,438 branches in India, obtains about 40 per cent of its business from outside Andhra Pradesh. He said, "We already have obtained permission from the Reserve Bank of India for opening 121 new branches and will seek permission for opening 100 more," and added that they have been able to raise Rs 520 crore last week heading towards improvement in capital adequacy to about 13.5 per cent.