SBI general insurance to go public; chairman Rajnish Kumar hints at possible timeline

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December 17, 2019 4:37 PM

SBI General Insurance, which is a joint venture with Insurance Australia Group, has to "mature" and will await the valuation to touch Rs 50,000 crore, Kumar said.

SBI General Insurance, which is a joint venture with Insurance Australia Group, has to “mature” and will await the valuation to touch Rs 50,000 crore, Rajnish Kumar said.

SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar on Tuesday said it will take up to three years more to list its general insurance arm. The bank will list its asset management company before SBI General Insurance, Kumar said while speaking at the India Economic Conclave organised by Times Network here. SBI had last year listed its life insurance arm and the proceeds came in handy to fight difficulties in asset quality. It is also planning to part-sell its stake in SBI Cards.

SBI General Insurance, which is a joint venture with Insurance Australia Group, has to “mature” and will await the valuation to touch Rs 50,000 crore, Kumar said. “We are discussing but if you ask me sequentially then it will be AMC first then SBI General because. We believe that still it is about 2-3 years away before SBI General matures,” he said.

Speaking on the asset quality position, Kumar reiterated that non-performing assets had touched a peak last quarter and there will be an improvement from this quarter onwards. On telecom exposure, Kumar said the bank had burnt its “fingers and body” in the past, but sounded more confident for the sector now.

He said the risk is a “lot less” now and also added that the bank is in a position to absorb setbacks, if any, in the future. The bank is not getting much of demand for large projects given the state of the economy and the project loans are much smaller now, Kumar said. Amid a sustained period of liquidity surplus, he said availability of money to fund the debt requirements of corporates is not the problem, but it is equity raising which is proving to be a difficulty.

Companies are facing difficulties for equity raising due to a slew of concerns, including the general economic scenario and the low investor confidence due to setbacks like losing money in the past.
Kumar said he does not see any “major changes” when it comes to consolidation of state-owned banks.
He, however, hinted that state ownership of lenders limits the discretion of the management in taking business decisions as compared to private sector rivals.

“When you are a private bank, you still have a choice in terms of selecting your client. In SBI, you don’t have that choice at times, even if business is not generating profits,” he said. The SBI chief also admitted that the lender has not delivered to equity investors, but sought the bank to be evaluated on the basis of “stakeholder value” that it is generating.

The equity valuations are suppressed because of a “small segment” not representing over 10 per cent of the balancesheet, which pulls down the performance, Kumar said. Rather than looking at returns for equity holders by way of share price appreciation, there is a need to look at wider “stakeholder returns” which more number of people across the world are tracking, he said. Kumar said SBI does not need any capital from the government and will depend on internal accruals and profits itself for its buffers, and also exhorted its peers to do the same.

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