RBI relaxes norms to enable banks to support MFIs

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today relaxed debt restructuring norms for the microfinance sector to enable banks to provide liquidity support to the crisis-ridden microfinance institutions (MFIs), reports PTI.

Attributing the current problems of the MFI sector to external factors the RBI stated that the temporary measures being announced by the central bank would help in providing liquidity support to the MFIs.

The bank said it would facilitate operations till Malegam Committee submitted its report and measures are taken to bring about long term and structural changes in the functioning of MFIs.

Under the new norms, which will remain effective till 31 March 2011, banks would be allowed to treat the advances to MFIs as good assets even if such loans are not fully secured. The decision would allow banks to restructure loans provided to the MFIs without much difficulty.

The decision follows a meeting called by the RBI last month to assess the problem of the microfinance sector in Andhra Pradesh and other states and also to work out interim measures to deal with the situation.

In order to prevent the problem from fanning out to states other than Andhra, the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) urged the RBI to relax the debt restructuring guidelines for the MFI sector.

The problems in the microfinance sector erupted after the Andhra government imposed restrictions on activities of the MFIs following spate of suicide by harried borrowers.

Making a case for some interim measures to deal with the situation, the bankers had told the RBI that "collections by MFIs in Andhra Pradesh had deteriorated seriously and there were incipient signs of contagion spreading to other states."

Last October, the RBI constituted a high level committee under YH Malegam to study and suggest measures to mitigate the concerns on the functioning of microfinance institutions.

Kumar Mangalam Birla, Shashi Rajagopalan and UR Rao (all are on the central board of RBI) and deputy governor KC Chakrabarty are the members of the panel.

The committee was given the mandate to study the issues and concerns in micro finance sector, including ways and means of making interest rates charged by them reasonable. The panel is expected to submit its report by the end of this month.

The RBI regulates only those MFIs which are registered with it as non-banking finance companies (NBFCs). However, it does not prescribe lending rates for these institutions.

Although the registered companies cover over 80% of the microfinance business, in terms of number of companies they constitute a small percentage of the total number of MFIs in the country.

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Government reshuffles portfolio of ministers

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre-led by prime minister Manmohan Singh announced changes in the portfolio of some key ministers in the Cabinet.

As pert of the reshuffle, overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi has been allotted additional charge of civil aviation. He replaces Praful Patel who gets heavy industries and public enterprises.

Beni Prasad Verma will be minister of state (MoS) with independent charge in the steel ministry while KV Thomas has retained consumer affairs, food and public distribution in the elevated position of MoS independent charge.

Union external affairs, environment, defence, home and finance ministries have not been touched.

Subodh Kant Sahay has been shifted from food processing industries to tourism. Pawan Kumar Bansal retains parliamentary affairs but has lost water resources, which has been allotted to Salman Khurshid.

Murli Deora, former oil minister has been put in charge of corporate affairs ministry

Kamal Nath has been given the post of urban development ministry

MS Gill has been shifted from sports and youth affairs to statistics and programme implementation

CP Joshi has been given road transport and highways. E Ahamed has been appointed minister of state for external affairs while Sriprakash Jaiswal given the coal ministry.

Vilasrao Deshmukh has been given gets rural development. Jaipal Reddy has been allotted petroleum and natural gas while Ashwini Kumar has been appointed minister of state for science and technology.

KC Venugopal has been assigned the MoS for power while Ajay Maken has been allotted MoS for youth affairs and sports. Gurudas Kamat gets MoS for home ministry

Jitin Prasada gets MoS for road transport and highways and Pratik Patel has been assigned as MoS for coal ministry.

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Wednesday Market Report: Struggling to go up

The market opened with modest gains on positive cues from global markets. Oil & gas, metal and consumer durables sectors witnessed buying interest in early trade. The indices fluctuated on both sides of the neutral line, amid a high degree of choppiness. They touched their day's high in noon trade-but a sharp bout of selling saw them breaching their psychological levels a short while later. The decline was led by capital goods and IT stocks.

Volatility continued with the market touching the day's low in late trade. However, the indices witnessed a minor bounce-back, but ended in the red, erasing nearly half the gains accrued in the previous session.

Yesterday, we had predicted that while there were further upsides possible in the Sensex and the Nifty, the risk of a sharp fall remained. Today, the market traded up till about 1.30PM, and then vicious selling resumed, that took the market indices into the negative in a matter of minutes.

If the market doesn't hold this week's low of 5,624 (in the Nifty) and 18,779 (in the Sensex), expect the indices to go down as low as 5,550 and18,400 respectively.

However, we are almost at the end of the current spate of decline. The silver lining is the improving advance-decline ratio. Today's advance-decline ratio on the NSE was 700:679, which was not as bad as most of the days, last week. The Sensex ended 114 points lower at 18,978 while the Nifty stood at 5,691, down 33 points.

If the current week's lows hold, expect the market to rally, probably in a day or two.

The market breadth on the key benchmarks was negative. The Sensex had 21 losers and nine gainers while the Nifty had 34 declining stocks, 15 advancing stocks and one remained unchanged. The broader markets ended in the green-with the BSE Mid-cap index gaining 0.15% and the BSE Small-cap index adding 0.09%.

BSE Metal (up 1.78%); BSE Realty (up 1.66%) and BSE Auto (up 0.10%) were the top sectoral gainers. On the other hand, BSE Capital Goods (down 1.20%), BSE IT (down 1.18%) and BSE TECk (down 1.15%) ended at the bottom of the list.

DLF (up 3.13%), Sterlite Industries (up 2.74%), Reliance Infrastructure (up 2.71%), Hindalco Industries (up 2.63%) and Bajaj Auto (up 1.96%) were the major gainers on the Sensex. The top losers were Infosys Technologies (down 1.99%), Larsen & Toubro (down 1.87%), State Bank of India (down 1.86%), HDFC Bank (down 1.48%) and Hero Honda (down 1.46%).

Former oil minister Murli Deora (his portfolio has changed in today's Cabinet reshuffle) had demanded abolition of customs duty on crude oil and cut in excise duty on diesel to avoid "more fuel price hikes" that have now become necessary because of spiralling global oil rates.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had on 26 February 2010, imposed a 5% import duty on crude oil and hiked the same on petrol & diesel from 2.5% to 7.5%. He also hiked excise duty on petrol & diesel by Re1 a litre to Rs14.35 and Rs4.60 per litre, respectively.

Markets in Asia ended mostly in the green on earnings optimism in the US. Investors brushed aside fears of further tightening moves by China. Beijing is expected to announce key economic indicators on Thursday. This apart, the decline in the dollar boosted material stocks.

The Shanghai Composite surged 1.86%; the Hang Seng gained 1.10%; the Nikkei 225 was up 0.36%; the Seoul Composite rose 0.92% and the Taiwan Weighted advanced 0.71%. On the other hand, the Jakarta Composite declined 0.88%, the KLSE Composite was down 0.22% and the Straits Times lost 0.23%.

Back home, the country's sugar production is estimated to have risen by 15% to 8.4 million tonnes (MT) as on 15th January in the current crop year. The government has estimated total sugar production at 24.50MT in the ongoing 2010-11 crop year (October-September), against 19MT in the previous crop year. The country's annual demand of sugar is pegged at 23MT.

Institutional participation in the equities segment was meagre on Tuesday. While foreign institutional investors were net buyers of stocks worth Rs72.54 crore, domestic institutional investors were net sellers of equities worth Rs26.20 crore.

Software exporter HCL Technologies (up 3.97%) today reported a 34.2% jump in net income to Rs399.70 crore for the quarter ended 31 December 2010 against Rs297.70 crore in the October-December quarter last fiscal.

The consolidated revenues of the company as per US GAAP, grew by 27.8% to Rs3,888.40 crore in the December quarter from Rs3,041.40 crore in the year-ago period, HCL Technologies said in a statement.

Tata Steel (up 1.16%) today said it has raised Rs507.82 crore through allotment of about 83 lakh shares to a clutch of anchor investors at the upper end of the price band of its follow-on public offer, which is now open for subscription. The names include several foreign institutional investors like Nomura, Macquarie Bank, Credit Suisse (Singapore), Government of Singapore, Morgan Stanley, Barclays Capital and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority-among others.

Orchid Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals (0.33%) is scouting for brands in the non-antibiotics area. The company is also aiming to double its US business in the next two-three years. In June 2010, Orchid had acquired the US-based generics marketing company, Karalex Pharma.

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