Punjab & Sind Bank, BoM and BoI are likely privatisation candidates

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Updated: Feb 03, 2021 9:48 AM

The government has proposed to introduce required legislative amendments for privatisation of two PSBs in the Budget session itself.

punjab and sind bankPunjab & Sind Bank. Representative image

The market is betting on Punjab & Sind Bank, Bank of Maharashtra and Bank of India as the likely candidates for the finance minister’s ambitious bank privatisation plan. In her Budget speech, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government planned to privatise two sate-run banks, other than IDBI Bank. Analysts believe that the likely candidates will be from the pool of banks which were not part of the merger process. The government had earlier allowed merger of 13 banks into five banks.

Anil Gupta – vice-president and sector head, financial sector ratings, ICRA, said Punjab and Sind Bank and Bank of Maharashtra looked probable candidates for privitisation. Of the six banks kept out of merger, Indian Overseas Bank, Central Bank and UCO Bank are under PCA (prompt-corrective action), he explained. The Reserve Bank of India had kept the three banks in the PCA framework after a massive asset quality deterioration, losses in the books and lower capital levels. Gupta said PCA banks were unlikely to be offered for privatisation due to poor investor demand.

Leaving State Bank of India and five merged banks, there are six public sector banks in the banking system. The six banks include Bank of India, Punjab and Sind Bank, Bank of Maharashtra, Indian Overseas Bank (IoB), Central Bank of India and Uco Bank. Gupta also said the government was unlikely to consider privitisation of Bank of India due its large size. “The government may want to test the water with smaller banks first,” he added.

According to JM Financial, “While the details are awaited, we believe the most likely candidates will be from the pool of banks which were not part of consolidation. While these candidates are small and are not expected to provide any material resources to the government, we believe that this is a step in the right direction and can act as a test case for privatisation of other major public sector banks in future.”

In a note to its clients, Kotak Institutional Equities said the task of privatising two PSU banks may be difficult to achieve but could result in more privatisations, if successful. Lack of interest among potential buyers remains a key concern given the structure of these banks, Kotak said.

In an interview with CNN News 18, Niramala Sitharaman said the government wanted more public sector banks which are functionally strong, professionally managed and can meet the demands of growing aspirational India. “If I am going to be sitting around with such public sector banks which are just not in a mood or a position to stand up, is it right to pour tax-payers money into such banks? When there may be buyers who can buy and run it efficiently,” she said.

The government has proposed to introduce required legislative amendments for privatisation of two PSBs in the Budget session itself.

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