While Dubai grapples with a financial crisis, Indian banks like Bank of Baroda and SBI will be forced to take a deeper look into their exposure to Dubai-based entities
Dubai’s relentless pursuit of growth received an unprecedented jolt last week, when its heavily indebted flagship holding company, Dubai World, announced plans to restructure $60 billion worth of loans. Dubai World’s real estate arm Nakheel is in the doldrums, after a 50% drop in real estate prices has forced it to ask for a trading suspension of its Islamic bonds (sukuks). Dubai World has sought a moratorium on its debt obligations for a period of six months.
It also appears now that big brother Abu Dhabi is not in a hurry to come to the rescue of its more illustrious neighbour, and is willing to aid some entities only on a case-to-case basis. That could put some Indian banks with direct or indirect exposure to the ‘investors’ paradise’ in a spot of bother.
Although it is unlikely that this crisis will escalate into a full-blown sovereign default, Indian entities will be wary of taking a hit on their balance sheets. A $5.5-billion syndicated loan to Dubai World has, among others, two leading Indian banks as participants. Bank of Baroda and State Bank of India (SBI) have an exposure to the embattled entity, although it is unlikely for each bank to have a significant exposure, given the high number of participants. Some other Asian banks on the roster include Bank of East Asia, CITIC Ka Wah Bank, Cathay United Bank and United Overseas Bank, among others.
In fact, Bank of Baroda has an exposure of Rs4,000 crore to Dubai, of which Rs900 crore is to Dubai World. However, the first repayment in respect of this advance is due only in 2011. On the other hand, India’s largest lender, SBI, has an exposure to Dubai World to the tune of $50 million (Rs230 crore).
Both the banks have, however, played down concerns regarding repayment. Bank of Baroda’s chairman and managing director MD Mallya has stated that the company would study the implications of restructuring Dubai World’s loan. Although the money involved is not huge enough to raise concerns, the management of these banks will be forced to inspect their balance sheets and take a closer look at the beneficiaries of the advances. Among other banks, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank and Indian Overseas Bank are reported to have exposure to Dubai, albeit in manageable proportions.
Apart from the direct exposure to Dubai World, banks will have to study their indirect exposure through loans to companies and exporters that deal with Dubai-based entities.
The Sensex closed at 17,198 as it gained 272 points from the previous day’s close, while the Nifty closed at 5,122, up 89 points, after data showed strong Indian economic expansion in the September quarter.
Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has made a lot of sound and dance about its proposed exchange platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It has announced a list of norms for the new platform, which leave several questions unanswered. For instance, will the new platform be successful at attracting SMEs? Would it create a thriving public market in SMEs allowing them to raise capital? And why have previous experiments such as IndoNext (on the BSE) failed?
Previous attempts at creating a similar platform were fraught with issues relating to liquidity and inadequate participation due to lack of awareness. Jagannatham Thunuguntla, equity head, SMC Capitals says, “The main challenge with creating an SME platform anywhere in the world is that of ‘illiquidity of the trading scrips’ and lack of sufficient trading volumes of the stocks trading on these platforms. Hence, once the trading volumes of these stocks dry up, these stocks gradually lose interest from investor circles.”
One of SEBI’s norms specifies that merchant bankers to the issue will bear responsibility for market making for a minimum period of three years. It remains to be seen whether merchant bankers will be willing to stay around for three years. Mr Thunuguntla adds, “This time SEBI has introduced the concept of ‘mandatory market making’ for three years by the merchant bankers of all the SME IPOs that get listed on these platforms. One may need to wait and see how this market making works out in ensuring good trading volumes. Once market participants get familiar about these new developments, gradually action may pick up on these platforms.”
Madhabi Puri Buch, managing director and chief executive of ICICI Securities explains, “While the responsibility on the merchant bankers will be considerable, this will have the effect of ensuring that only those issues in which the merchant bankers have full confidence are brought to the public on this platform. The guideline envisages that the merchant bankers can tie up with a registered private equity entity in order to facilitate market making and this will assist them in ensuring that risks are better managed.”
SEBI was previously looking at creating a separate SME exchange altogether, but instead settled on a separate SME platform in the existing stock exchanges. Mr Thunuguntla feels that this is a good idea, as the existing stock exchanges already have tried-and-tested technology platforms and strong clearing mechanisms. If another SME exchange is to be created, then creating technology and clearing mechanisms all over again may prove to be challenging.
– Sanket Dhanorkar