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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

RBI grants bank licenses to IDFC, Bandhan Financial; Green Signal also for India Post...............

The decade-long wait is finally over, with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday deciding to grant fresh banking licences to two entities out of the 25 applicants. But industrial houses will be disappointed as the central bank has chosen to ignore them.

After the Election Commission have its go ahead on Tuesday, RBI’s committee of central board met on Wednesday morning to deliberate on the two names that were placed before it for approval.

The two entities which made the cut are 
IDFC, a diversified financial services firm with a special focus on infrastructure financing, and Bandhan, the country’s largest micro lender based in Kolkata.

The two entities will get one and a half years to commence operations, failing which their licences could be cancelled by the central bank. The central bank will also consider the application of India Post, but under a separate process to be carried out in consultation with the government.

The RBI statement said some of those entities who did not qualify in this round for a full-fledged banking  licence   could well apply in future rounds or could apply for differentiated licences under the proposed framework.

“The “in-principle” approval granted will be valid for a period of 18 months during which the applicants have to comply with the requirements under the guidelines and fulfil the other conditions as may be stipulated by the RBI,” the banking regulator said, adding that after being satisfied with the entities of compliance with the norms, licence will be given for commencement for banking operations.

“Until a regular licence is issued, the applicants would be barred from doing banking business,” the RBI said.

The bank licence process was started with the objective of promoting financial inclusion in February 2010 following a Budget announcement by former Finance Minister and now President Pranab Mukherjee. Three years later, the RBI released the final guidelines on licensing norms in February 2013. The deadline for submission of applications was July 1, 2013.

A total of 25 applicants, ranging from business conglomerates like the Birlas, the Anil Ambani group, Larsen & Toubro and Bajaj to non-banking financial companies like LIC Housing Finance and Edelweiss applied for the coveted licence. Another micro lenders, Janalakhsmi, also applied.

The move comes despite stiff opposition from the country’s main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which wanted the RBI to wait till the new government is formed after the election results next month.

The RBI had set up a high-level advisory committee under the chairmanship of former central bank governor Bimal Jalan to scrutinise the 25 applications. As suggested by the panel, the RBI has also ignored candidates which are under the glare of investigative agencies in scams like airwave spectrum auction and coal block allocation.

Interestingly, the Tata group withdrew its application citing stringent norms that stipulates a non-operative financial holding company structure.

In the last round of licensing, two new entities, Kotak and Yes Bank, were allowed to enter the banking sector in 2003-04.
The central bank has already said that from now on, issuance of banking licence will not be a once-in-a-decade affair. The RBI will fine-tune the guidelines and licences will be given on tap. There will also be differentiated licensing for entities such as payments banks, which are very different from universal banks.
 Source   Business-standard.

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