Government asks PNB to expedite sale of non-core assets

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New Delhi | Published: June 5, 2018 5:14:17 AM

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked PNB to shape up and show reasonable improvement in its financial parametres, preferably by June 15, said another source.

government, PNB, non core assetsPNB gave two presentations to the finance ministry recently on its financial health status and unveiled concrete plans for a quick turnaround, said the sources. (Reuters)

The finance ministry has asked fraud-hit Punjab National Bank (PNB) — which suffered the worst-ever losses by any lender in the country’s banking history in the March quarter —to expedite the sale of non-core assets and step up retail lending to cut excessive reliance on corporate banking, as part of reforms to turn the corner at the earliest, sources told FE. PNB gave two presentations to the finance ministry recently on its financial health status and unveiled concrete plans for a quick turnaround, said the sources. “The bank was called for a second time, as the ministry wasn’t too impressed with its first presentation,” said a source.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked PNB to shape up and show reasonable improvement in its financial parametres, preferably by June 15, said another source. This means the bank is unlikely to be put under the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework immediately. The government also doesn’t see its inclusion in the list of PCA banks as yet, conscious of the role of one-off factors like the fraud in its capital erosion.

The bank could garner Rs 13,000 crore from the sale of non-core assets, divestment of stake in subsidiaries and the second tranche of capital infusion by the end of September, according to a senior government official. PNB will sell its property at Bhikaji Cama Place in Delhi and a part of its stake in PNB Housing Finance to mobilise resources.

Besides, recovery from loans and bad assets that are undergoing insolvency proceedings will also boost the bank’s capital. In the first round of the massive capital infusion by the government in 2017-18, PNB had received Rs 5,473 crore, the highest among state-run lenders (after SBI) that are not under the PCA. PNB incurred losses of Rs 13,417 crore in the last quarter, as provisioning quadrupled following the fraud of Rs 14,357 crore involving jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi and the RBI’s withdrawal of a half a dozen earlier debt restructuring schemes.

While it already set aside funds to cover half the fraud losses in the March quarter, it intends to make provisions for the rest in the next three quarters. Its June quarter results will be keenly watched by both the regulator and the government for a realistic assessment of its performance. Any further slippage in its operational efficiency could spell trouble for it.

Despite a spurt in net bad loans in the March quarter to 11.24% from 7.81% a year earlier, what has gone in favour of the bank is that before the fraud was detected, PNB had recorded profits of Rs 1,134 crore in the first three quarters of the last fiscal, better than many of its peers. The bank is now looking at bolstering its retail push now. On a consolidated basis, its retail banking assets accounted for 20% of its overall exposure as of March, while corporate/wholesale banking made up for 44%.

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