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Finance Ministry likely to stick to capital infusion programme for PSU banks

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New Delhi: The Finance Ministry would not curtail its capital infusion plan for this financial year even as state-owned banks would be needing fewer funds following the RBI’s decision to defer the deadline to meet Basel III norms by a year, according to sources.

Under the new dispensation, the capital infusion by the government in public sector banks for meeting the capital buffer norms would come down to around Rs 15,000-20,000 crore, sources said.

However, there will not be any reduction in the capital funding plan as announced in October last year despite a lower requirement due to the extension of the deadline for meeting the CCB of 2.5 per cent until March 2020, sources said.

The capital infusion would help improve the financial health of banks, sources said, adding that some banks would get necessary regulatory capital while others would get it for fueling growth, they clarified.

Earlier this week, the RBI in the central board meeting decided to extend the implementation of the last tranche of 0.625 per cent of capital conservation buffer by a year to March 2020. However, the board decided to retain the capital adequacy ratio or CRAR at 9 per cent, against 8 per cent prescribed by Basel III norms.

The CCB currently stands at 1.875 per cent and the remaining 0.625 per cent was to be met by March 2019, as per the earlier deadline fixed by the RBI.

The extension of the timeline for the implementation of the last tranche of the CCB under Basel-III capital regulations could reduce the burden of public sector banks (PSBs) by Rs 35,000 crore this fiscal, according to rating agency Crisil.

Generally, there is a leverage of 10 times on the capital, sources said adding that the lending capacity would increase by Rs 3.5 lakh crore.

After assessing the requirement of each bank, the ministry is expected to finalise the capital infusion of about Rs 54,000 crore by this month-end or by the first half of the next month.

The ministry had earlier this year provided a capital infusion of Rs 11,336 crore to five PSBs to help them meet their interest payment commitments.

Punjab National Bank (PNB), hit by the Nirav Modi scam, got the highest amount of Rs 2,816 crore, while Allahabad Bank received Rs 1,790 crore. Andhra Bank got the capital support of Rs 2,019 crore, Indian Overseas Bank received Rs 2,157 crore and Corporation Bank got Rs 2,555 crore.

The infusion was part of the remaining Rs 65,000 crore out of Rs 2.11 lakh crore capital infusion over two financial years. The government announced the Rs 2.11 lakh crore capital infusion programme in October last year.

As per the plan, the PSBs were to get Rs 1.35 lakh crore through re-capitalisation bonds, and the balance Rs 58,000 crore through the raising of capital from the market.

Out of the Rs 1.35 lakh crore, the government has already infused about Rs 82,000 crore through recap bonds and the balance would be done during this fiscal.


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WPI inflation falls to 4.64 pc in November on softening food prices

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New Delhi: Inflation based on wholesale prices fell to a three-month low of 4.64 per cent in November, as prices of food articles, especially vegetables, softened.

The Wholesale Price Index (WPI)-based inflation stood was 5.28 per cent in October and 4.02 per cent in November last year.

According to the government data released , food articles witnessed softening of prices with deflation at 3.31 per cent in November, against 1.49 per cent in October. Vegetables, too, became cheaper with deflation at 26.98 per cent in November, compared to 18.65 per cent in the previous month.

Inflation in the ‘fuel and power’ basket in November continued to rule high at 16.28 per cent, but was lower than 18.44 per cent in October. This was on account of lowering of prices of petrol and diesel.

Individually, in petrol and diesel it was 12.06 per cent and 20.16 per cent, respectively, and for liquified petroleum gas (LPG) it was 23.22 per cent during October.

Among food articles, potato prices continued to rule high with 86.45 per cent inflation in November.While onion witnessed deflation of 47.60 per cent; the same for pulses stood at 5.42 per cent. The 4.64 per cent inflation is the lowest in three months, and a lower inflation than this was last seen in August at 4.62 per cent.

Data released earlier this week showed that the retail or consumer price index-based inflation for November also fell to a 17-month low at 2.33 per cent. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) mainly takes into account retail inflation data while formulating monetary policy.

In its fifth monetary policy review for the fiscal, released last week, the Reserve Bank kept interest rates unchanged, but held out a promise to cut them if the upside risks to inflation do not materialise.

The central bank lowered retail inflation projection to 2.7-3.2 per cent for the second half of the current fiscal, citing normal monsoon and moderate food prices.

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Reduce number, weight of government mandates for PSBs: Rajan

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New Delhi: Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan on Friday said there is need to reduce uncompensated government mandates imposed on public sector banks (PSBs).

“This is lazy government – if an action is worth doing, it should be paid out of budgetary resources. It also is against the interests of minority shareholders in PSBs,” he said here.

The government should incentivise all banks to take up activities it thinks desirable, not impose it on a few, especially as the privileges associated with a banking license diminish, he said.

Along these lines, requirements that banks mandatorily invest in government bonds (the SLR requirement) should continue to be reduced, substituting instead with the liquidity coverage ratios and net stable funding ratios set by Basel, he added. He further said public sector banks still not adequately professionalised and there is a need to substantially improve risk management.

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Petrol, diesel prices unlikely to flare up ahead of 2019 polls

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New Delhi: Consumers may be spared big spike in auto fuel prices ahead of the 2019 general elections with state-owned oil marketing companies planning to absorb a portion of the anticipated hike while deciding on retail rates of petrol and diesel.

Sources said these companies built a buffer during the recent fall in global crude and product prices by effecting less than proportional decrease in retail prices of fuel. It means prices have not been lowered in real terms. The buffer could be put to use once prices begin to rise again when global markets starts to feel the impact of the latest Opec announced production cuts.

“The idea is to prevent fuel prices from touching record highs again. Crude prices, which have fallen about 25 per cent since mid-October, are likely to cross $70 a barrel soon. The buffer would be used to see that increase in retail fuel prices could be paused on few days while quantum of increase could be lowered on others,” said a government official privy to the development.

Retail price of petrol touched an all-time high of Rs 84 a litre and diesel Rs 75.45 a litre in Delhi (over Rs 91 a litre in Mumbai) on October 4 due to rise in global oil prices from around $50 a barrel in early part of the year to over $80 per barrel in September. The spike attracted wrath of public and severely dented the government’s image over its ability to contain price rise. The Indian basket of crude fell to a low average of $65.40 a barrel in November. But with Opec, including Russia, announcing to take 1.2 million barrels per day of production off the market for the first six months of 2019, crude is expected to start nearing $80 a barrel soon.

This could take petrol and diesel prices closer to October 4 levels, which the government wants to avoid especially ahead of general elections. If we look at the November data, petrol was being retailed at Rs 78 a litre and diesel Rs 72 a litre in the national capital even when crude price in the Indian basket was about $69 a barrel. At this level in April this year, petrol was being retailed at Rs 73-74 a litre and diesel Rs 65-66 a litre. And auto fuels’ price was high despite the government having reduced excise duty on them by Rs 1.50 a litre in October.

It would mean even if crude touches $80 a barrel, the retail price of fuel would be well below that the October highs.

Officials of OMCs disagree over higher cuts in retail price of fuel saying the current scenario should be viewed in the context of sharp fall in the rupee against the dollar making oil purchases expensive.

Oil prices have fallen over 25 per cent in last one and half months due to easing of supply pressures, particularly from Iran. The US waiver for oil imports from Iran to major oil importers has eased the situation. But analysts believe once Iran oil exports starts getting wiped out from next year, there could be supply issues and a resultant price rise. The Opec cuts only have added to price worries.

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