Doha Bank in race for India foray

Written by Sajan C Kumar | Chennai | Updated: Mar 7 2010, 09:41am hrs
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjees call for new banking licences in Budget 2010-11 seems to have enthused many foreign players as well. West Asias key money lender and Qatars third largest commercial bank, Doha Bank, is betting big on India. The Qatar Stock Exchange-listed bank will be in race for securing licence to begin operations in India.

We had tried our hand at applying for a banking licence in India way back in 2005, but it did not work out because of the policy against more private banks at that time. Now that RBI is willing to grant licence to private banks, we will go for it, Doha Bank CEO R Seetharaman told FE in an interview. However, he didnt set a timeframe for the proposed India foray.

Seetharaman said he had been in touch with RBI officials and has been asked to re-apply. Once we get RBI clearance, there will not be any delay on the banks part as we are well prepared to kickstart operations here, he said, adding after getting the licence, the bank would look at diversifying into fields like insurance and asset financing.

Doha Bank already has presence in India in the form of Doha Brokerage and Financial Sevices, which offers a wide range of services such as trading in stocks and derivatives, commodity futures, currency derivates, mutual funds, portfolio management and depository services.

When asked whether RBI would enforce more stringent norms for new private players in the banking sector in order to safeguard public money, Seetharaman said, RBI always has had proper checks and measures in place to avert any sort of failures on the part of banks. He added Qatar and India shared a close bilateral relationship in trade and investments and the opening up of the banking sector further was likely to trigger more two-way FDI flow.

Last week, Australians ANZ returned to India after 10 years with RBI issuing it an in-principal nod for a banking licence. The move will allow ANZ to establish a bank branch in Mumbai. It will offer a range of retail and wholesale banking services. Pending final approval, ANZ expects to establish its first branch in the next 12 months, said industry sources.

The bank has been waiting more than a year for approval to enter the fast-growing Indian market.

Last year, ANZ took part in talks regarding possible acquisition of 30 Royal Bank of Scotland branches in India but pulled out citing costs. The Doha Bank has clinched tie-ups with three major banks in India namely Axis Bank, IndusInd Bank and State Bank group for deploying remittances. The bank has channellised remittances to the tune of Rs 200 crore in the last calender year from indvidual expartriates and corporates.

Doha Bank had total assets of $12.63 billion as on December 2009 with a loan portfolio of $7.11 billion and deposit portfolio of 7.66 billion. Founded in 1975 in Doha, the bank has a client base of more than 1,00,00 customers and full branch operations in Qatar, New York, Kuwait and UAE. It also has representative offices in China, Turkey, Singapore, Romania, Japan, United Kingdom, South Korea. Besides, the bank is also in the process of seeking operating licence in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.