If you thought loans against gold were the best thing to happen to mankind since sliced bread, think again. We made trips to various branches of companies which profess to offer ‘quick’ loans against the yellow metal and this is what we unearthed
Over the past few months, advertisements on gold loans have been visible everywhere, from companies like Muthoot Finance, Muthoot Fincorp and Manappuram Finance. These advertisements make pawning gold as easy as eating a piece of cake.
They appeal to all those who need money but only have assets like a house and gold jewellery. Our homes are our most important asset, and gold comes in as a close second. Since pawning a house is tough, pawning gold seems like the easiest option. India is a country which worships gold. Therefore, loans against gold have a mass appeal. At a time when gold is retailing at Rs18,000 for 10 grams, it is easy for people to pledge their gold and raise money. No wonder gold loans are doing roaring business.
A few of these companies are so profitable that they have been able to attract private equity investments. Manappuram is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange - its shares have shot up from Rs13 in April 2009 to Rs113 (on 12th August), thanks to vigorous growth in turnover and profits. In the June quarter of this fiscal, income surged 177% to Rs18,607 crore while net profits zoomed 225% to Rs4,615 crore.
All the three companies mentioned above have their origins in Kerala, but now have massive nationwide operations. However, it is hard to figure out if their self-proclaimed growth numbers are authentic. Muthoot Fincorp claims that it has a simple and uncomplicated procedure that ensures that you have your loan in 3 minutes depending upon the documents.
Moneylife visited all these companies (their Mumbai branches). More on that later.
At the Muthoot Fincorp branch, the sales assistant that we spoke to said that it would take at least 10 to 15 minutes to grant a loan. Such claims are also made by other companies, with Muthoot Finance saying that it would take 5 minutes to get the loan against gold on its website. Not so, in fact it would take 30 minutes and that too if we came in the morning, said its sales assistant. While Manappuram says you'll get the gold loan within a minute, its sales assistant says that you may get it probably in 15 minutes.
But how solid are these gold loan companies? They function as non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) but how closely are they regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)? Where do they get the money to loan you? If it's borrowed money, could they suffer from an asset-liability mismatch under financial stress? How robust are their business models? Are they reliable? Is your gold safe with them? If gold prices fall, would they sell your gold and recover their money? If not, would they resort to strong-arm tactics? What are the social implications of a failure of these schemes as gold loan companies get larger and larger?
When we started looking at these questions, we discovered to our utter surprise that there has been no thinking along these lines so far. So, Moneylife started to investigate all these issues. The result of this is a three-part investigation. The first part, which follows, is an actual description of how the branches of these three companies lending gold actually function. They all have their branches in Andheri, a bustling suburb of Mumbai. The second part, to be followed a few days later, will examine the financial model of Manappuram Finance whose financial data is available since it is a listed company. The third part will examine the quality of supervision of these NBFCs given that they have become so ubiquitous and large that their failures will cause a lot of turmoil.
Last week, our correspondent Aaron Rodrigues made a trip to the Andheri branches of these three gold loan companies. His first stop was Muthoot Finance. Located very close to Andheri station, its office is on the second floor of Jyoti Estate. The Muthoot Finance branch is surrounded by a clutch of residential buildings, but unlike the other branches of these financial companies, it wasn't deserted. Here is our correspondent's first person report.
The Muthoot Finance branch is small and cramped. At 3:15pm, a few customers were inside the office, either to give some gold or take some of their gold back. The sales assistants are busy and you can hear one customer grumbling loudly; he feels cheated. "I didn't ask for so much of a loan, and what is this rubbish of paying the interest and the principal. It's like I have given more money, then taken (less) money," he says. It's chaotic, at first sight.
Finally I get a chance to speak to a sales assistant. She explains to me how the scheme works. The company will take my gold, give me some money and charge me an interest of 2% per month, making it an annual rate of interest of 24%. The loan is branch-specific. If you give gold to one branch then you can redeem it only from that branch. This is contrary to what most of these companies say in their websites - that the customer can redeem the gold from any of their branches.
Under the scheme, you hand over the gold to the branch and the outlet will provide you with cash. If you have gold worth Rs50 lakh and above, then you are given cheques.
She wants to know how many grams of gold I have. I ask her if gold prices were to drop, would that have any impact on my interest amount and principal amount. Her answer is short, "No. Nothing changes when you have taken the loan. Sir, how much grams of gold do you have?" I ask her if I can't repay the loan amount then what? Again, she tells me with her reassuring smile, "Sir, if you can't pay your interest for nearly 18 months, we will put up your gold for auction."
This branch doesn't look all that secure - there is just one guard at the door, there aren't any other security personnel and no camera that I could spot. Is it really safe to have your gold stored here?
The sales assistant again wants to know how many grams of gold I have. I tell her I have 200 grams of gold. But why is she asking me how many grams of gold do I have and not how may carats worth? I tell her, "I have 200 grams of gold and they are all 24 carat worth."
"So you have 200 grams of gold. That should give you a loan of nearly Rs3 lakh," she replies. "I don't need that high a loan, all I need is Rs2 lakh for my sister's operation. So how much gold would I need to give?" I ask. After using the calculator, she replies, "Ok, so you would need to get nearly 150 grams of gold as we measure it (the loan amount) as 1 gram of gold being equal to Rs1,430."
I ask what about the quality of gold? Doesn't that affect the value and the loan amount? It doesn't; the loan value depends on weight. Another key factor is that any gold below 22 carats is not taken for consideration when it comes to a gold loan.
I move to other branches. Unlike Muthoot Finance, these were deserted and were at odd locations. Take Muthoot Fincorp. Its branch is at an industrial estate.
Others occupiers there are mechanics and grain suppliers. When I reached Muthoot Fincorp, it was nearly 4:30pm. Almost time to shut shop. However, I have made my way inside, requesting the guard that I need some details. From what I saw there only three persons were in the branch office, aside from the guard. I walk down to meet the sales assistant, who tells me to sit down and starts explaining the Muthoot Fincorp scheme. The scheme is similar in many ways to that of Muthoot Finance. The only difference is that this scheme gives you the option to pay your interest in a monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly basis - all with different interest margins.
Again, your gold will not be auctioned before 24 months. But what scares you is the location of the branch - and the lack of security.
As per their scheme, the customer is charged 2% per month. Again here the weight of the gold is paramount. I tell her that I have 24 carats of gold. Her reply is that her company evaluates the gold on the basis of its weight (not its purity). Only if you have a gold coin, will the gold amount be measured on the basis of the purity of the yellow metal. For example, if you have a 24-carat gold coin, the loan amount will be based on the (24 carat) purity.
However, for gold jewellery the loan depends on the size of the ornament. If you have a gold ring or earring worth 22 carats, the loan amount that Muthoot Fincorp will give you would be Rs 1,350 for a gram. But for larger-size jewellery like a gold bangle, the amount would be Rs 1,450 per gram. If you are carrying along 24-carat gold for a loan, then you better have a gold coin. This will enable you to get a loan amount of Rs1,700 per gram.
Manappuram's branch is located on the Western Express highway, but it is isolated. The building is rundown. All the stores in the building are shut, except for a solitary ATM. As you enter, there is a very dim light guiding you to the office. The guard sitting at the door tells me that the servers are not working. I request him to let me in as I just want details.
The moment you enter, you see a very different office from the ones you have seen before. There are fans running, but no air-conditioning. Some windows are broken and there are paan stains on its walls. There is a room, (actually with a lock). I wonder if it may be the room where the gold is stored.
The usual questions were asked. The person I first spoke to didn't have any knowledge of the schemes, so his colleague intervened. And this is a listed gold loan company.
The loan amount would depend upon the weight of the gold. Manappuram values loan against gold per gram at Rs1,400. However, they only consider 90% of the total weight of gold being submitted for a loan. This would mean your actual loan amount is Rs1,260. The total monthly interest you will pay under this scheme would be 1%.
However, if you want a higher amount of loan against your gold, there are a few more schemes (which charge you higher interest). For a monthly interest of 2.17%, Manappuram will provide you a loan of Rs1,450 per gram (after deducting a margin of 10% as explained above). The interest payout is similar to that of Muthoot Fincorp. You can pay your interest on a monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly basis - which will obviously impact the actual interest that you are paying out.
Again, on 14th August, I made a trip to Muthoot Finance's Mahim branch. The branch is at Ram Mahal Co-operative Housing Society, opposite the railway station. It is near an HSBC ATM machine. I enter the branch by 9:45am. It has just opened. There's a solitary customer in the branch, apart from the staff and a security guard.
As usual, I ask the same questions. Unlike in the Andheri branch (where I was informed that the rate of monthly interest on the loan would be 2%), here they tell me it's 2.04%.
After all the formalities I tell them that I would visit the next day, a Sunday, with my gold. I am told that the Mahim branch is closed on Sundays. This seemed odd, because when I had visited the Andheri branch, I saw a poster stating that they were open on Sunday. A sales assistant confirmed that their branch was open on Sunday. Now why should the Mahim branch be shut on Sunday? The Mahim sales assistant tells me, "It's as per company rules and all branches are not open (on Sundays)."
(In the second part of this three-part series, we will examine the financial model of Manappuram Finance whose financial data is available, since it is a listed company)
BNP Paribas MF unveils Fixed Term Fund-Series 19 E; DSP BlackRock MF floats DSP BlackRock FMP -3M-Series 24; Reliance MF launches Fixed Horizon Fund-XVI-Series 4; Religare MF unveils Fixed Maturity Plan-Series IV-Plan C (3 Months); Claris Lifesciences to launch IPO on 24th November
BNP Paribas MF unveils Fixed Term Fund-Series 19 E
BNP Paribas Mutual Fund has launched BNP Paribas Fixed Term Fund-Series 19 E, a close-ended income scheme.
The investment objective of the scheme would be to achieve growth of capital through investments made in fixed-income securities maturing on or before the maturity of the scheme. The exit load for the scheme is nil. The tenor of the scheme is three months.
During the new fund offer (NFO), the units will be offered at face value of Rs10 per unit. The NFO opens on 22nd November and closes on 25th November. The minimum investment amount is Rs5,000.
CRISIL Liquid Fund Index is the benchmark index. The scheme will be managed by Alok Singh, fund head-fixed income & structured products.
DSP BlackRock MF floats DSP BlackRock FMP -3M-Series 24
DSP BlackRock Mutual Fund has launched DSP BlackRock FMP-3M-Series 24, a close-ended income scheme.
The primary investment objective of the scheme is to seek capital appreciation by investing in debt and money-market securities. It is envisaged that the scheme will invest only in such securities which mature on or before the date of maturity of the schemes. The scheme offers growth and dividend (payout) option.
During the new fund offer (NFO), the units will be offered at face value of Rs10 per unit. The NFO opens on 22nd November and closes on 25th November. The minimum investment amount is Rs10,000.
CRISIL Liquid Fund Index is the benchmark index. The scheme will be managed by Dhawal Dalal.
Reliance MF launches Fixed Horizon Fund-XVI-Series 4
Reliance Mutual Fund has launched Reliance Fixed Horizon Fund-XVI-Series 4, a close-ended income scheme.
The primary investment objective of the scheme is to seek to generate regular returns and growth of capital by investing in government securities and other fixed income/debt securities normally maturing in line with the time profile of the scheme with the objective of limiting interest rate volatility. The exit load for the scheme is nil. The tenor of the scheme is 367 days. The scheme will have two options viz-growth and dividend (payout) option.
During the new fund offer (NFO), the units will be offered at face value of Rs10 per unit. The NFO opens on 22nd November and closes on 25th November. The minimum investment amount is Rs5,000. The minimum target amount is Rs20 crore.
CRISIL Short Term Bond Fund Index is the benchmark index. The scheme will be managed by Amit Tripathi.
Religare MF unveils Fixed Maturity Plan-Series IV-Plan C (3 Months)
Religare Mutual Fund has launched Religare Fixed Maturity Plan-Series IV-Plan A to F-Plan C (3 Months), a close-ended income scheme.
The investment objective of the Plan C is to generate income by investing in debt and money-market instruments normally maturing in line with the duration of the plan.
During the new fund offer (NFO), the units will be offered at face value of Rs10 per unit. The NFO opens on 22nd November and closes on 23rd November. The minimum investment amount is Rs5,000. The minimum target amount is Rs1 crore.CRISIL Liquid Fund Index is the benchmark index.
Claris Lifesciences to launch IPO on 24th November
Drug-maker Claris Lifesciences today said its initial public offer (IPO) to raise funds aggregating Rs300 crore will open on 24th November.
The firm has fixed the price band of the issue between Rs278 to Rs293 per share.
The proceeds of the issue will mainly go into capacity expansion, to set up a research and development facility and also into retiring the debt.
The company's bid issue opens on 24th November and closes on 26th November.
The Ahmedabad-based company has appointed Enam Securities, Edelweiss Capital, JM Financial Consultants and ICICI Securities as the book running lead managers to the issue.
Claris Lifesciences is one of the largest sterile injectables pharmaceutical companies in the country with a market presence in 76 countries worldwide.
The country’s largest credit records institution is not updating its records on time, according to a complaint by a senior banker. Also, individuals are upset that they are not receiving their credit reports on time
Credit Information Bureau of India Ltd (CIBIL) is falling behind in providing up-to-date services promised to members as well as commercial and consumer borrowers. A major complaint that has been voiced against the country's first credit bureau is that it fails to update its records on a regular basis.
According to a senior manager of Bank of Baroda, the credit bureau takes six weeks or more to even rectify the records. This is a violation of the requirement of the Credit Information Companies (Regulation) Act, according to which credit bureaus must correct/rectify the data within 30 days of receiving it from members.
In an email, CIBIL, said, "Credit Institutions are required to submit their data to CIBIL on a monthly basis. We update our records within one week from the date of receipt of the data from the Credit Institutions. This is a regular and disciplined process and is completed within the stipulated time period."
"If a Credit Institution submits specific request to update CIBIL records, the request is processed within 24 to 48 hours. The same is also confirmed via email to the respective Credit Institution," it added.
Speaking to reporters recently, Arun Thukral, managing director of CIBIL, said, "At CIBIL, our data is refreshed every month. All the information we receive from our members in entered into our database on a monthly basis. In addition, since our job is to just maintain credit history of commercial and consumer borrowers and provide the same to our members, we cannot modify or alter the data. Any change, correction or modification is done by the members themselves."
CIBIL caters to about 300 members, many of them major banks, co-operative banks and non-banking financial corporations (NBFCs). It holds information of around 16 crore loan accounts and about 9.5 crore customers-individuals and businesses. The repository or credit data that is maintained by CIBIL gets refreshed automatically every month with the information received from members.
CIBIL has started providing a credit information report (CIR) to individuals through its website. But since there is no separate mechanism to verify the identity of an individual, it is using postal services to send these reports. It says that the reports are delivered in about a week.
But customers have complained about unprecedented delays and difficulties in obtaining the CIRs. One individual who tried calling the CIBIL helpline was surprised at the response. He says, "I tried calling the helpline number (022-61404300) at about 2pm on Friday, to find the dispatch details and the IVR said that I should call during working hours which are mentioned as 10am to 6pm."
In its reply, the credit bureau said," The CIR request is processed in 10 business days from the date of receipt of request at CIBIL. This is subject to realization of the fee payment and complete and valid documentation. Once CIBIL receives the documents and Fees, the request is processed and copy of the CIR is dispatched to the applicant via speed post."
More complaints against CIBIL are even listed on some sites and blogs. One such complaint on consumercourt.in reads: "I have been struggling to obtain my CIBIL report since one and a half month. I have sent the application form along with the payment of Rs142 by demand draft and my latest bank account statement. But I have received conflicting responses from CIBIL, whenever I have called them on phone or written to them by email. Sometimes they respond saying it will be dispatched in the next 2-3 days, sometimes they ask for a letter from my bank confirming my present address. I have sent them three previous bank statements as well, which contain the same address, but CIBIL says the address in their record is different."
CIBIL, in the email said, "Please remember that CIBIL does not make changes to any information on its own. It is only a custodian of information received from credit institutions. CIBIL is permitted to make changes to credit information only when it is confirmed by the credit institution(s). Consumer can report inaccuracies if any in the CIR via email or letter. We shall check the same with the relevant Credit Institution and will update the consumer as appropriate."