No need to fast-track recapitalisation of SBI: Finance ministry official

A senior finance ministry said SBI is not planning to raise any overseas debt immediately and so the government is not much worried about the ratings downgrade

New Delhi: Downplaying Moody’s decision to downgrade rating of State Bank of India (SBI), a senior finance ministry official said the government will not fast-track recapitalisation of the PSU bank, reports PTI.

“There is no need to panic. We are working on it (recapitalisation). The process will not be fast-tracked because of Moody’s downgrade,” the official told PTI.

SBI had submitted the proposal a couple of months back to raise Rs20,000 crore through the rights issue. The bank requires funding to implement its growth plans over the next two fiscals.

The government is the largest shareholder of the bank, with 59% equity. It will have to shell out a big amount during the rights issue to maintain its equity holding.

The official said SBI is not planning to raise any overseas debt immediately and so the government is not much worried about the ratings downgrade.

“Why should we be bothered (by the ratings downgrade)? We are not going to raise any such debt now,” he said, adding that “the government is on course to recapitalise the state-run lender, but it will not act in haste to increase the capital”.

Last week, global credit ratings firm Moody’s downgraded SBI’s financial strength by one notch to ‘D+’ from ‘C-’ on account of its low Tier-I (equity) capital ratio and deteriorating asset quality. The downgrading is likely to make overseas borrowings costlier for the state-owned lender.

The rating applies to perpetual debt, which is called IPDR, and qualifies for Tier I capital.

The bank has so far issued $625 million of such debt in two tranches—$400 million and $225 million. Both these debts are due for call option in 2017.

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CBI looks into spectrum to telecom companies in DTH business

The decision to probe the DTH broadcasters was taken after agency sleuths found that some of the telecom companies, under probe in the 2G scam, were also broadcasters of the service

New Delhi: Widening its probe in the second generation (2G) scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has now turned to investigate spectrum allocation made to direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasters by seeking details of sanction of bandwidth, reports PTI.

The decision to probe the DTH broadcasters was taken after agency sleuths found that some of the telecom companies, under probe in the 2G scam, were also broadcasters of the service, official sources said Sunday.

The CBI had sought details including the original files containing applications for assigning of spectrum and wireless operating licence for DTH services.

The files pertained to Dish TV India, Reliance Big TV Pvt Ltd, Bharti Multi-media, Bharti Business Channel Pvt Ltd, Doordarshan, SunDirect TV Pvt Ltd and Tata Sky.

CBI sources said it would examine the files as some of these companies were under probe in the 2G scam which included role of former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran in Aircel-Maxis deal.

The CBI is also looking into a possible kickback received by a south India-based TV channel.

In its charge-sheet, the CBI has alleged that DMK MP Kanimozhi, daughter of former Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi, had got Kalaignar TV in the Tata Sky bouquet in conspiracy with party colleague and former telecom minister A Raja.

Reliance Telecommunications has already been charged with criminal conspiracy and cheating in the 2G case. Bharti and Tatas, which are in both DTH and telecom fields, have not been made accused in the 2G scam. Dish TV and Doordarshan are not into telecom business.

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Disaster with Chinese Characteristics

Greece is a democracy with a free press and subject to the restrictions of the EU. China actively suppresses information. To determine the state of the Chinese economy it is sometimes necessary to look outside some of the official reports. Like discovery of the structure of DNA, it is necessary to look at shadows and in China’s case the shadows are looking very scary

While the world has woken up to Greece’s debt problems, China is actively suppressing information. To determine the state of the Chinese economy it is sometimes necessary to look outside some of the official reports

The problems in Greece have caused an international financial crisis. Like the sub-prime meltdown in the US, the question is why weren’t the problems in Greece identified sooner? The reason is simple. The problem was hidden. But Greece is a small country of barely more than 11 million people. Shanghai alone has over 16 million and if China is hiding a disaster, it is a much bigger problem. Odds are that it is.
 
In Greece the present debacle was discovered when the newly elected socialist government revealed a double-digit deficit in October 2009, a deficit that was almost three times the previous forecast. It wasn’t a mistake. The Greek bean counters had been at this game for a long time. According to Eurostat, the European Union statistical agency, Greece distorted its numbers to get into the European Union (EU) in 2001.
 
The terms of Greece’s bailout require it to clean up its numbers. It had to create an independent watchdog headed by a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) official to police Elstat, the Greek statistical agency. Greece’s numbers have gotten better, but not without a fight from the Elstat’s union and board of directors. According to a former statistical service official “It seems that board members wanted to go back to the old days when officials at the finance ministry and the central bank got together to produce figures that served the national interest, regardless of accuracy”.
 
But Greece is a democracy with a free press and subject to the restrictions of the EU. China actively suppresses information. To determine the state of the Chinese economy it is sometimes necessary to look outside some of the official reports. Like discovery of the structure of DNA, it is necessary to look at shadows and in China’s case the shadows are looking very scary.
 
A very large shadow is the underground banking system. Chinese state-owned banks loan money mainly to local governments and state owned enterprises. They also pay interest on deposits that are only 3.5%, almost 3% less than the reported inflation rate of 6.2%. So wealthy individuals lend money to capital-starved private businesses at higher interest rates. Recently the businesses have been going bust.
 
The newspaper of the Communist party, the People’s Daily, referred to this problem as “a Chinese-style sub-prime crisis”. It is not just the businesses that are going bust, but private lending operations. No one knows exactly how big the private lending is in China, but estimates are that lending in 2010 alone was 4 trillion renminbi.
 
Often when loans go bad, they are referred to as a bankruptcy or a default, but these are western terms. They imply that creditors receive something. China has a bankruptcy law, but like most laws in China, it is ignored. Bosses of small companies just disappear with any assets they can carry.
 
It is not just the locals in China that are getting burned. The shadows are extending beyond China. Chinese real estate developers alone have sold $19 billion in debt on international markets. International investors faced with nominal interest rates in the US and Europe and hungry for yield gobbled them up assuming constant Chinese growth. The yields have increased it is true, but for the wrong reason. Prices of these bonds have plunged an average of 22 cents on the dollar in the past two months alone and at least a dozen developers are in danger of default. If past experience is any guide, creditors of a defaulted Chinese company can expect little or nothing.
 
Chinese sovereign debt has been sold as some of the safest in the world. The Chinese leadership has disparaged the downgrade of US debt, proudly espousing the superiority of their system. But things may change. The credit-default swap (CDS) market has been the bane of sovereign credit in Europe. It may have found a new victim. Two years ago the Chinese CDS market was only $1.6 billion, the 227th in the world. Now it is 10th   at $8.3 billion, larger than the markets for Portugal or Bank of America. It is beginning to flash red. This week China CDS hit a two-year high of 208 basis points. It has fallen since then to 173 about the same level as France.
 
In the past the United States was often a country’s largest trading partner. Today it is often to be China. As China slows, so do their economies. The PMIs (Purchase Manager’s Indices) for both Australia and Taiwan are showing a major drop to 42 and 44 respectively. The price of commodities like copper and soy have fallen 27% and 11%, which will eventually impact the economies of Chile, Peru and Argentina. Most of Asia is exposed.
 
Most of the world thinks that Greece is the problem. They are wrong. It’s not.

(The writer is president of Emerging Market Strategies and can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected]).

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