ICICI to open China, South Africa branches this fiscal: Chanda Kochhar

Written by PTI | Mumbai | Updated: Jul 6 2014, 21:44pm hrs
With an eye on 'India-linked' business expansion on foreign shores, the country's top private sector lender ICICI Bank is all set to start full-fledged branches in China and South Africa in the current fiscal.

The bank has representative offices in these two nations and it has now got regulatory approvals to convert them into branches, ICICI Bank's Managing Director and CEO Chanda Kochhar said.

The bank already has branches in the US, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Dubai and Qatar among others, while it also has got representative offices in the UAE, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Stating that all foreign operations of the bank are already profitable, Kochhar said: "Our focus is on Indian companies expanding into foreign markets, multinationals from outside coming into India and also the NRIs, when it comes to the international banking business."

Kochhar told PTI in an interview: "Our international business focus is India-linked banking and it would remain India-linked. So, the Indian companies going abroad and global companies coming to India, the trade flows between India and other countries and the banking requirement of the NRIs, that is our international business portfolio.

"Within that framework, the international expansion would take place. For example, in China and South Africa, we have representative offices and now we have got permissions to convert them into full-fledged branches. This will happen in the current fiscal."

In China, its rep office is in the Pudong financial district of Shanghai, while the same in South Africa is located in the Sandton business district of Johannesburg.

When asked whether ICICI Bank was also looking to enter new foreign countries, Kochhar said: "When it comes to the number of countries, we are more or less in all our target markets, but within those markets, expansion may take place."

ICICI Bank's revenue from foreign operations, which include branches outside India and offshore banking unit in India, rose to 5,895 crore in fiscal year 2013-14, from Rs 4,692 crore in the previous year.

In comparison, revenue from domestic operations rose from Rs 43,729 crore to Rs 48,711 crore.

Its assets for foreign operations rose to Rs 1,04,642 crore from Rs 93,509.7 crore during the same period. The domestic operations assets stood at Rs 4,85,326 crore as on March 31, 2014, up from Rs 4,37,196 crore a year ago.

Kochhar said that all foreign operations of ICICI Bank are in profit and even the return on equity of overseas branches are "more or less similar to the domestic operations".

She added: "The only difference is that margins are lower, but operating costs are also lower because they are mostly wholesale business, and fees are higher. Only when it comes to subsidiaries, there you have extra capital put in, so the return on equity is lower than that in India. But still, they are all profitable.

"Broadly speaking, we are now quite well established in the international areas."

The bank's international footprint also consists of subsidiaries in the UK, Russia and Canada. Its wholly-owned subsidiary ICICI Bank UK Plc has nine branches in the United Kingdom and a branch each in Belgium and Germany.

Besides, ICICI Bank Canada has nine branches, while its Russian subsidiary, ICICI Bank Eurasia, is headquartered in Moscow with a branch in St Petersburg.

India has been the largest remittance receiving country in the world and ICICI Bank has a significant market share in remittances. During the last fiscal, it expanded access to remittance services through new partnerships and channels. The bank's international branches are primarily funded by debt capital market issuances, lines of financing from export credit agencies, syndicated loans, bilateral loans and bank lines, while its international subsidiaries raise deposits in their local markets.