Monday, May 24, 2010

ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank not Indian-owned: Centre

ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank not Indian-owned: Centre


Govt will try to resolve their problems, says DIPP Secretary


NEW DELHI: The Central Government on Friday said ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank could not be called Indian-owned banks, setting at rest the debate generated over the nationality of the top two private sector lenders.

"At best, the two can be called Indian-controlled banks," Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) Secretary R. P. Singh said when asked about the government's stand in the wake of the two seeking clarifications on the matter.

"ICICI Bank Managing Director and CEO (Chanda Kochhar) met me two days ago and discussed the issue with me," he said.

ICICI Bank had maintained that it continued to be an Indian bank as its management and board was Indian.

However, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank have over 74 per cent foreign holding, including that of foreign banks and overseas institutional investors. "Banks will be covered in one paper, which we are trying to bring out on the financial aspects totally... it will cover banks also," he said referring to the six discussion papers on FDI that the DIPP is planning to bring out soon.

"You know the definition of what is a company controlled by Indians and what is the definition of a company owned by Indians," Mr. Singh said. Going by the definition, they were certainly banks which were not owned by Indians, because equity of at least 74 per cent or around 74 per cent was from outside, he pointed out, buttressing the government's stand.

But they can be construed as banks controlled by Indians if the majority of directors are Indians and right to directorship is with Indians. So depending on that they are construed as banks controlled by India, but they can certainly not be called banks owned by Indians.

"There is a way of resolving their problems. We will try to find a solution for that. The handicap they are suffering, we will try to resolve," Mr. Singh said. The banks' claim that they are Indian is significant in the light of the government announcing new FDI norms last year which say if indirect FDI in an Indian company exceeds 50 per cent, its investment in subsidiaries will be treated as foreign investment.

Moreover, in calculating indirect foreign investment in an Indian entity, the sum total of FDI, stake from non-resident Indians, American and global depository receipts, foreign currency convertible bonds and convertible preference shares will be taken into account. — PTI

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