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Banking News 18.01.2017

SBI hits overseas market to raise

$500 million, biggest in the year


Saikat Das & Joel Rebello

The Economic Times

Published on January 18, 2017



Mumbai, January 17:  Country’s largest lender the State Bank of India in the biggest bond offering this year by an Indian borrower is raising up to $500 million amid expectations that such offerings could slow this year due to rising yields in the West. The offer has opened for subscription Tuesday which may be priced at 170 basis points over the five-year US Treasury bonds, which now yield at 1.85%, two people familiar with the matter told ET. Bonds will mature in five years. One basis point is one hundredth of a percentage point.  SBI could not be contacted immediately for comments.


“Even as the issue opens for subscription, we are getting huge response from investors including insurers, fund managers, private banks across Asia, Europe and other parts of the world. The order book could be much higher than the actual size,” said a person associated with the exercise. The final pricing would be tighter than the initial guidance, the person said. A tighter pricing helps a borrower to lower costs. The securities will be issued from SBI’s London branch and listed in the Singapore Stock Exchange.


Citi Ban, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ are two of the bankers, which are helping the banking behemoth to mop up funds. Rating companies Fitch and Moody’s have graded the bond-sale as BBB-(EXP) and Baa3, the lowest in the investment grade. The bank's final Baa3 rating incorporates a one-notch uplift due to Moody's assumption of the bank's very high level of support from the Indian government in a stressed situation, said Moody’s Investors Service in a note.


“The assumption of high support is based on a combination of its large size and critical role in India's payment system, representing around 16.3% of system loans and 17.6% of system deposits as of end-March 2016, its nationwide reach, and the government's 60.18% stake in SBI.” The securities are known as Regulation S bonds in market parlance. The notes are issued under SBI's $10 billion Medium-Term-Note (MTN) programme.



From E-Group, Banking-News



RBI has no idea how much

it cost to print the new notes


Surabhi, The Business Line

Published on January 18, 2017



The apex bank said it doesn’t have the information


New Delhi, January 17: The country's central bank has astonishingly revealed that it doesn’t know how much money was spent on printing the new currency notes. To a Right to Information query filed by BusinessLine on November 25 on the cost of printing the new Rs. 500 and Rs. 2,000 notes, the RBI said “the information sought is not available with us”.


“Bank notes are printed by presses under the Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Limited (BRBNMPL) and the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India (SPMCIL),” the central bank said, while transferring the query to the two agencies.


According to the RBI’s weekly statistical supplement, the total currency in circulation is pegged at Rs. 8,734.16 lakh crore as on January 6. This includes lower denomination notes as well as the new high denominates notes. While the Bengaluru-based BRBNMPL is yet to respond to the query, the Delhi-based SPMCIL said it has not calculated the cost of printing Rs. 500 notes.


“At present, currency presses under SPMCIL are printing Rs. 500 (new) and below denomination notes. The average cost of printing new Rs. 500 currency note has not been worked out yet,” it said in its response on January 10, while forwarding the query to two currency printing presses at Dewas and Nashik. A further response is still awaited. In a bid to curb black money and counterfeiting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on November 8 announced the withdrawal of the old series Rs. 500 and scrapping of the Rs. 1,000 notes, which constituted over three-fourths of the currency in circulation.


The Finance Ministry and the RBI have not answered questions on the cost of printing the new notes, though officials peg it between Rs. 12,000 crore and Rs. 17,000 crore. The cost of printing a note depends on the size and security features, according to a source. It varies between 0.50 paise and Rs. 4 per note, depending on the denomination, he added. Between July 2015 and June 2016, the RBI spent Rs. 3,420 crore on security printing, compared with Rs. 3,760 crore during 2014-15.



From E-Group, Banking-News



RBI independence questioned

after India’s cash recall chaos


David Keohane, Kiran Stacey and Jyotsna Singh

The Financial Times, London

Published on January 18, 2017



Critics say government’s policy push puts

central bank’s economic role ‘under threat’


Mumbai & New Delhi, January 17: India’s central bank and its new governor are facing a barrage of criticism over their role in the recall of 86 per cent of the country’s currency, with a growing chorus casting doubt over the independence and competence of one of the country’s most important institutions.


Urjit Patel was just two months into the top job at the Reserve Bank of India when Narendra Modi, the prime minister, announced the demonetisation in early November. The sudden move caused chaos across the cash-driven economy, with replacement notes initially incompatible with the nation’s cash machines and unavailable in sufficient quantities, despite being strictly rationed. The sudden move has led critics to complain that the government, with RBI complicity, rushed through a policy that should first have been carefully weighed and recommended by the central bank, undermining its independence. “The role of the central bank in our economy is under threat and it’s a national problem,” Y V Reddy, a former RBI governor, said in a recent interview.


The RBI’s approval was needed for the government to proceed with demonetisation but many have questioned how much it was really involved in formulating the most significant Indian monetary policy decision in decades. According to a briefing sent by the central bank to parliamentarians in December, it only recommended the plan a day after being “advised” by the government to consider it. “The governor allowed the government to encroach upon the central bank’s territory,” said P Chidambaram, a former finance minister for the opposition Congress party.


The RBI had noted that the “decision to withdraw the legal tender could be made” because a “critical minimum” of new notes had been printed — a claim called into question by the subsequent scramble for cash across the country. Amid growing criticism over the sequence of events that led to the move, the government issued a statement at the weekend supporting the RBI and hitting back at those who “have alleged infringement of the autonomy” of the central bank.


“It is categorically stated that the government fully respects the independence and autonomy of the Reserve Bank of India,” the finance ministry said.  Beyond the decision-making process, the RBI’s execution of the policy has come under fire for a perceived lack of preparedness, a slew of changes to the rules once the policy had been announced and a dearth of communication about the unprecedented economic experiment. “The RBI has managed demonetisation in an incompetent and unprofessional manner,” said Mr Chidambaram. “They were completely unprepared.”


Mr Patel has come under particular criticism, with critics comparing the new governor unfavourably to his predecessor, Raghuram Rajan. Mr Patel took the top job at the RBI in September amid suggestions Mr Rajan had been pushed out by the government because of his outspoken views on topics such as crony capitalism and social intolerance. “Rightly or wrongly, the market has taken the view that this would never have happened under Rajan and I don't think it’s an exaggeration to call it a fiasco,” said Paul McNamara, an emerging-markets debt portfolio manager at GAM in London.


After more than two months of economic disruption in which the governor has given only two press conferences, observers have questioned the RBI leadership’s apparent reluctance to communicate with the public. “What has made the situation worse is just this silence,” said Rajeev Malik, an economist with CLSA. Nevertheless, the central bank is being given the benefit of the doubt by some because of its record of competence and its new inflation-targeting framework. The demonetisation episode “has cast a shadow over the RBI’s competence and independence [but] we still think that this institution is a very credible one, and in terms of its conduct of monetary policy, it's a very mature institution”, said Kyran Curry, a Standard and Poor’s analyst.


Erik Lueth, global emerging market economist at Legal & General Investment Management, said the RBI’s management of a one-off event was only a side issue for international investors. “These kind of currency reforms happen every 30 years, if they happen at all,” he said. “So, even if the RBI is bad at that, what does it matter to us? Setting interest rates happens once a month — so as long as they do a good job there, foreign investors wouldn’t really care”.  However, others said long-term damage had been done to the central bank. “This was the biggest decision on monetary policy that India has ever made and the RBI was nowhere to be seen,” said one recently retired civil servant. “That has compromised it for years to come.”



From E-Group, Banking-News



Urjit Patel’s job is to protect the RBI’s

reputation, not the Modi government’s


Mihir Sharma, The Mint

Published on January 18, 2017



New Delhi, January 17 (Bloomberg): The Indian government’s abrupt decision to withdraw high-value notes from circulation has hurt a great many people and sectors of the economy. But the institution that’s been injured the most is the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Since demonetisation was announced on 8 November, India’s austere and technocratic central bank has become the butt of online jokes. Soft-spoken governor Urjit Patel has endured intrusive protests. The central bank employees’ union wrote him a letter saying staff were “humiliated” by the RBI’s “operational mismanagement” and warning that the bank’s “autonomy and image have been dented beyond repair.” One former RBI governor said that in Patel’s position, he would resign.


Patel is clearly feeling the heat: Last week, he “literally started running” out the back door of an auditorium in order to avoid a phalanx of reporters. But he should have one and only one concern now: to rebuild trust in the central bank’s competence and independence as quickly as possible.


As the union’s letter noted, the RBI’s implementation of the demonetisation policy has gravely damaged such faith. Even the program’s strongest supporters generally agree that its rollout has been bungled. For many Indians, this incompetence has been captured most visibly by the RBI’s endless and sometimes contradictory orders to banks, which have kept both banks and ordinary citizens in a state of perpetual confusion. At some point, most people stopped counting the number of new RBI decrees (the opposition Congress party claims to have recorded at least 126 changes in just a few weeks).


Other wounds have been equally self-inflicted. The bank, for instance, suddenly stopped issuing weekly data on how much money was being returned when opponents of demonetisation pointed out that the proportion was much larger than expected. Even previously-released data mysteriously vanished from the RBI website. Various officials leaked different estimates of the returns, all of which sounded awfully high. So the RBI was forced into an official denial, saying it was “still counting” the number of notes returned.


Patel has yet to answer far too many questions about the conception and planning of demonetisation. When was the idea broached? How long was it planned? Was the RBI’s board given enough time to consider it? (It looks like it was given just a few hours.) What were the RBI’s assumptions about money supply and velocity when it took the decision, and why have these gone wrong? Was the decision unanimous?


A well-functioning central bank would have released much of this information by now. But not only has the RBI not done so, the bank is stonewalling freedom of information requests, citing national security. Little wonder that it’s being seen in some quarters as a rubber stamp for the central government.


It’s important to remember that the law that governs India’s central bank doesn’t actually allow for true independence; its Raj-era authors wanted to ensure that the then-colony’s monetary policy would continue to be drafted in Whitehall. Independent India adopted that logic in toto, as it did with other colonial legal codes. The section on monetary management in the RBI’s governing statute still begins by granting blanket powers to the government: “The Central Government may from time to time give such directions to the Bank as it may, after consultation with the Governor of the Bank, consider necessary in the public interest.”


Building up, extending and preserving the RBI’s autonomy has been a difficult and sometimes delicate task, pursued over decades by successive governors. Most had to stand up to government bullying at some point. Thanks to their work, India’s bank now has a reputation as an inflation-fighter and as a competent regulator. This keeps inflation low, and lends interest rates a stability that helps attract investment.


However difficult the task, repairing this reputation is critical—particularly at a time when Indian private sector investment is slumping. Patel must swiftly demonstrate that he is his own man. One good place to start: The RBI governor should release all the data about how many old bills have been returned, and explain why it took so long for him to do so. Next, he should lay out a timetable for when replacement currency notes will reach the market, as well as a description of the level at which the RBI expects money supply will eventually stabilize.


Sure, transparent and credible data will likely reveal that demonetisation has been a foolhardy exercise in pointlessness. But Patel’s job is to protect the RBI’s reputation, not the government’s. He’d be wise to start acting like it.

- Bloomberg


From E-Group, Banking-News



Outlook for public sector

banks challenging: ICRA


The Business Line

Published on January 18, 2017



Mumbai, January 17: The outlook for the Indian banking sector, especially for public sector banks (PSBs), remains challenging given their weak asset quality, consequent impact on internal capital generation and increasing capital requirements under Basel-III regulations, said credit rating agency ICRA.


Private banks, however, continue to be better placed on these parameters given their greater degree of control on asset quality. ICRA said after three consecutive quarters of losses, PSBs reported marginal profits on an aggregate basis during the July-September quarter of FY17. However, it added that their internal capital generation remains weak as reflected by the aggregate losses of Rs.1,160 crore during the first half of FY17, primarily on account of elevated credit costs.


According to Karthik Srinivasan, Group Head, Financial Sector Ratings, ICRA, “With the declining bond yields, ICRA expects PSBs to report marginal profits during Q3 FY17. However, elevated credit costs will continue to impact profitability leading to low, single-digit return on equity (RoE) during FY17.  “In comparison, private sector banks are likely to perform better, though, on an aggregate basis, their profitability may also be lower than (in) the previous year. We expect aggregate private bank RoE of 11-12 per cent during the third quarter and FY17.”


Capital infusion:


Capital requirements under Basel III will increase for both PSBs and private banks from March 2017. Despite their limited growth in advances, ICRA felt that PSBs will be constrained to meet the regulatory capital requirements on account of their losses during the year, while private banks will face challenges on account of the continued growth in their advances and weakening internal capital generation. “The pressure on internal capital generation, relatively better investor appetite and increased capital requirements helped banks raise Rs.25,030 crore (Rs.19,530 crore by PSBs and Rs.5,500 crore by private banks) of Additional Tier 1 (AT1) bonds during the April-December period of FY17,” said Srinivasan.


ICRA expects more AT1 issuances during Q4 FY17 as six PSBs have lower than required regulatory levels of Tier I capital for March 2017. The agency said it has been regularly highlighting the increasing risk of servicing the coupon on these bonds, especially for weaker PSBs which have been reporting losses and depletion of revenue reserves. In the backdrop of weak capitalisation and losses, the government may need to increase the capital infusion plans beyond the Rs.25,000 crore announced for FY17 if PSBs are unable to raise capital through AT1 bonds, it added.



From E-Group, Banking-News



Why RBI's strategic debt restructuring

scheme has turned out to be a damp squib


Anand Adhikari

The Business Today

Issue: January 29, 2017



"If it was easy, the problem would have been solved earlier"


A year ago, lenders to engineering and construction major Gammon India Ltd invoked the Strategic Debt Restructuring (SDR) mechanism. A total of 16 banks, led by ICICI Bank, decided to convert a part of their loan into 63.07 per cent equity. The SDR Scheme, an improved version of the erstwhile Corporate Debt Restructuring, or CDR, mechanism, gives lenders sweeping powers to throw out managements of companies whose assets have turned bad. The bankers, however, could not find a buyer for the entire Gammon India and instead decided to restructure it into three parts - power transmission & distribution (T&D), engineering, procurement & construction (EPC), and the residual business.


The Thailand-based GP Group has shown interest in the EPC assets while Ajanma Holdings is keen to buy a stake in the T&D business. The banks are fine with these offers. After all, their 80 per cent exposure is getting transferred to these two companies. Gammon India, too, is relieved, as most of its debt is going away with the EPC business.


Gammon India is among close to two-dozen companies where bankers have invoked the SDR Scheme, launched 18 months ago to make the process of debt recovery faster and smoother. The list includes Alok Industries, Usher Agro, Diamond Power, Monnet Ispat, Jaiprakash Power and IVRCL. However, the scheme, like its earlier avatars, has found little success due to its rigid framework, and Gammon India is probably the only case where banks are hopeful of a turn in fortunes. At stake is Rs 1,00,000 crore debt where banks have invoked SDR. So, what went wrong? Several things, say experts.


One, the bankers triggered SDR in a hurry, without proper documentation or forensic audit. "They did not prepare themselves," says a private banker. This is evident in case of Jyoti Structures, a mid-sized company where banks, led by State Bank of India, or SBI, invoked SDR but decided to approach buyers without converting their debt into equity. They thought the buyer would just lap up the company. They were wrong. The deal didn't go ahead due to pricing and other issues. The 18-month SDR period will lapse in February. In the last one year, Jyoti Structures' losses have risen to 40 times its equity.


Experts say the problem starts at the loan documentation stage itself, which is why in many cases where there is no provision for conversion of loan into equity, the bankers are in the process of creating fresh documentation. "We cannot enforce (the change) if the company doesn't agree with the new terms," says K. Wadhwa, General Manager (Stressed Assets), Dena Bank.


Also, banks get 210 days to convert debt into equity. Here, too, the companies obstruct the process of increasing authorised capital, getting board approval, etc. In the ABG Shipyard case, for instance, shareholders rejected the conversion of debt into equity. ABG has now given the task of finding a strategic investor to investment banker Rothschild. The promoters' resistance to taking new investors on board is also a hurdle. In some cases, unsecured creditors try to thwart the process. In the Usher Agro case, two parties bombarded the company with winding-up petitions for recovery of dues. "These winding-up petitions run concurrently with the SDR process. There may be examples where bankers have to resolve these cases before the sale," says a lawyer.


Another issue is confusion due to the lack of a unified law/framework to deal with the problem. Alok Textile, for instance, is precariously placed for recommendation to the Board for Industrial & Financial Reconstruction, or BIFR, as a sick company. If it is admitted into BIFR, the SDR process could be stopped, though a banker in know of the developments says the company's entire net worth has not been eroded, a prerequisite for being admitted as a BIFR case. "They have not sought BIFR protection so far," he says.


The CDR Way?


Expert says the SDR Scheme could go the way of the CDR Scheme and fail to resolve the problem of stressed assets. Under CDR, banks used to accept a moratorium on interest payments and longer period for payment of the principal. Investment banking firm RBSA Advisors said in a recent report that the CDR of 44 firms with a debt of Rs 27,015 crore failed in 2014/15. "Only five firms with a total debt of Rs 1,399 crore managed to exit the CDR successfully," says the report.


Another issue is bankers' limitations as managers of diverse companies. "Do banks have time, energy and experience to turn around a stressed company?" asks a consultant. "Banks have converted debt into equity without any realistic assessment of how sustainable is the debt," says Abizer Diwanji, Head, Financial Services, EY India. The sustainability of debt, in fact, is a major roadblock, as many stressed asset funds want the leverage issue to be sorted out before they go ahead with the deal. SBI Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya says not many buyers are showing interest. "We have seen people back out at the last minute. Some buyers believe there could be hidden liabilities," she says.


In companies under SDR, bankers are actually retaining promoters and appointing concurrent auditors. "The change of management is not very easy in the Indian context," says Saurabh Tripathi, Senior Partner and Director at Boston Consulting India.


Some bankers complain that the RBI's one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work in the real world. "The RBI has given strong frameworks that few companies fit in. As a result, we are not able to do much," says Bhattacharya. Bankers are also reluctant to stray away from the regulations due to fear over inquiries by the Vigilance Department. "The real problem with SDR is that you have to cut a deal and a deal is fundamentally a judgment call. And a judgment call cannot be rule-based, and if it not rule-based, the public sector banks cannot feel safe," says Tripathi of Boston Consulting.


A former colleague of Bhattacharya who handled stressed assets at SBI says every company's problem is different. "If it was easy, the problem would have been solved earlier," says M.G. Vaidyan, a former Deputy Managing Director at SBI.


In many cases, the companies are facing temporary problems due to issues such as weak demand, cheap imports and overcapacity. In such a case, changing the management won't yield results. In many power companies, for example, the plant is ready but electricity boards are not signing power purchase agreements as electricity is available at lower prices on exchanges. "Nobody is thinking about innovative financial structures in terms of how to deal with business cycles," says Diwanji of EY India.


So, what's the solution? "The only way out is to take out all the bad debt from banks and park it in a separate vehicle in which all bank are stakeholders," says Boston Consulting's Tripathi. Arun Tiwari , Chairman and Managing Director, Union Bank of India, is optimistic. "The environment is challenging but I'm sure things will improve once the economy picks up," he says.


However, for the time being, banks are staring at losses. They get 18 months to exit the SDR Scheme. For the earliest cases, the period will start ending in the next six months and banks will have to make mark-to-market provisions for any diminution in the value of equity acquired under the SDR Scheme.


Maybe things will worsen before they improve.



From E-Group, Banking-News




Demonetisation can do little to stop

future blackmoney flow: Assocham


The Financial Express

Published on January 18, 2017



New Delhi, January 17 (PTI): Demonetisation may wipe out the present stock of black money held in cash from the economy but cannot eliminate the ill-gotten wealth converted into assets such as gold and real estate, Assocham said today. However, the industry body has suggested measures like lowering stamp duty on property transactions to tackle the menace.


“Invalidating existing high-denomination notes addresses the stock of black money but does little to address future flows. Eliminating such flows will require further reforms like lowering stamp duty on property transactions, electronic registration of real estate etc,” the Assocham study said.


Moreover, it said, indications that most of the scrapped currency has returned to the banking system through right or wrong means do suggest that demonetisation may not even fully wipe out the existing stock of ill-gotten cash.


“To that extent, even our study may turn out to be ambitious if the tax authorities are not able to trace the money laundered through different accounts. Given the resource constraints with the tax authorities, carrying out such an exercise for identification of laundered money may be a Herculean task,” Assocham Secretary General DS Rawat said.


The study pointed out that high denomination currency withdrawal is not without some inherent problems.


“It is very difficult to separate black money from white money because distinction is not once-and-for-all. White money used to purchase something becomes black if the shopkeeper does not pay sales tax,” the study noted, adding that much of conspicuous consumption is paid for in unaccounted money, which, in the hand of the recipients can again become perfectly legal income.


Ultimately, the problem of undisclosed incomes and wealth has to be tackled at the source, Assocham highlighted.


“Government must reduce the opportunity and incentives for unaccounted transactions by narrowing the gap between the market value and the one fixed by the government agencies for different levies like stamp duty etc,” Rawat said.


Further, in order to check the menace of black money, the chamber suggested measures, which include reducing discretionary powers of officers by framing rules and laws clearly and not leaving them to individuals’ interpretation.


“Ironically, several of our laws are badly drafted and framed, leaving scope for official discretion. The problem in a way starts here,” the chamber said.


A strong political will would be required to deal with this issue and bureaucrats drafting the proposed legislations should be clearly instructed not to leave any grey areas, it added.



From E-Group, Banking-News



India’s economy projected

to grow by 7.7%: UN Report


The Press Trust of India

Published on January 17, 2017



United Nations, January 17 (PTI): India is projected to grow by 7.7 per cent in fiscal 2017, remaining the fastest growing large developing economy, as it benefits from strong private consumption and gradual introduction of significant domestic reforms, a United Nations report said.  The United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2017 report launched today said India’s economy is projected to grow by 7.7 per cent in fiscal year 2017 and 7.6 per cent in 2018, benefiting from strong private consumption.


It however cautioned that low capacity utilisation and stressed balance sheets of banks and businesses will prevent a strong investment revival in the short term.


The report, UN’s flagship publication on expected trends in the global economy, comes just a day after the International Monetary Fund cut India’s growth rate for the current fiscal year to 6.6 per cent from its previous estimate of 7.6 per cent due to the “temporary negative consumption shock” of demonetisation.


The World Bank too decelerated India’s GDP growth for 2016-17 fiscal to 7 per cent from its previous estimate of 7.6 per cent citing the impact of demonetisation. The UN report does not make any mention of the withdrawal of the high-denomination 500 and 1000 currency notes by the Indian government nor its impact on the country’s economic growth.



 From E-Group, Banking-News



WEF Report: Employers in India likely to

trim head count by 25% on automation


The Press Trust of India

Published on January 17, 2017



Davos, January 16: More than a quarter of employers in India are expected to reduce their headcount on account of automation, which is expected to impact majority of companies worldwide, says a report. In a report released today, leading HR consultancy ManpowerGroup said new technologies would require increasingly specialist skills for people and organisations. “Over a quarter of employers in India expect to reduce headcount,” the report said, adding that Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia are close behind.


The findings of the report titled ‘The Skills Revolution’ are based on a survey of 18,000 employers across all sectors in 43 countries, published today at the World Economic Forum (WEF). “More than 90 per cent of employers expect their organisation to be impacted by digitisation in the next two years,” it said. On the other hand, employers in Italy, Guatemala and Peru are the most optimistic about the impact of automation on jobs. “We cannot slow the rate of technological advance, but employers can invest in their employees’ sk

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