State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest state-run lender is checking out the possibilities of acquiring its five associate banks, including assets and liabilities. However, this merger will not bring any significant benefit to SBI, in fact it will lead to a pre-tax hit of around 15% to 17% on the lender's consolidated net profit, says Religare Capital Research Ltd.
In a research note, Religare says, "In the previous mergers of State Bank of Indore in 2010 and State Bank of Saurashtra in 2008, SBI incurred losses on amalgamation of Rs890 crore and Rs610 crore respectively, largely on account of pension liability. These mergers occurred over five years ago, and the outgo at this juncture will be much higher, resulting in a one-time hit on profitability at a time when the bank (SBI) is already reeling under the weight of non-performing assets (NPAs). We believe the impact due to one-time pension cost will be Rs3,500-Rs4,500 crore, translating into 15-17% of pre-tax consolidated profit for SBI."
SBI's associate banks include State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore.
SBI’s employees are covered by both pension and provident fund, whereas not all employees of associate banks are eligible for pension – this implies an additional pension cost for SBI.
Religare says, over the past three years, the employee base (standalone) of SBI has declined by 10% due to control over cost and adoption of technology. "However, we see no scope for reducing the employee count after merger even if warranted. Thus, the benefits of lower operating cost and synergy from rationalisation of branches will occur only in the long term and will depend on management efficiency," it added.
There is no material difference in asset quality and capital ratios between parent SBI and associate banks, Religare says, adding, "We see no improvement in asset quality ratios and capital levels for SBI after the merger as its gross NPA (standalone at 5.1% and associate banks at 5.23%) and tier 1 capital (standalone at 9.6% and consolidated at 9.4%) are marginally lower on a consolidated basis as compared to standalone. In addition, restructured assets on a consolidated basis are also higher."
SBI is also trying to acquire Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB), which was set up as first bank for women in India. SBI says it would explore this acquisition once the central government gives an in-principle approval to start negotiations with BMB.
Religare says, "The acquisition of BMB, which has around 85 branches and equity capital of Rs1,000 crore with Rs200 crore loans, will increase SBI's group tier 1 capital by Rs100 crore."
While SBI is getting ready to merge its associated banks with itself and acquire BMB, this is not a precursor for mergers of other state-run banks, Religare says.
According to the research note, the merger between SBI and its associate banks is the easiest among state-run banks, as all of these entities are on the same technology platform and have the same employee culture. "A similar initiative would be a difficult, tedious process for other state-run banks which could create employee turmoil and waste management bandwidth for two-three years," it added.
Due to the move to merge associate banks with itself, SBI is facing downside risk for its earnings for FY2017, mainly due to one-time merger related costs, Religare concluded.
Gurupreet Singh Anand, the original complainant in the QNet multi-level marketing (MLM) scam has demanded a detailed probe of the role played by Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Anil Kapoor, Boman Irani and Pooja Hegde in promoting the company.
"As per the reports of the Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO), activities of the QI group have become a threat to the nation's security and hence the involvement of the big names who are directly or indirectly helping this company in its anti-national acts of money laundering cannot be ignored any longer as otherwise the Indian economy will be severely crippled," he said while addressing the press in Mumbai.
Some people, allegedly independent representatives (IRs) of QNet turned up and tried to disrupt the press conference called by Anand at the Press Club. However, they were moved out from the venue when Police came following request from Anand.
According to Anand, who had filed a complaint to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police for probing role of Bollywood celebrities, the main mastermind of this decade old scam and QI group chief Vijay Eswaran resides in Malaysia and is shown as absconding in the charge sheet filed by the CB-CID at Chennai. However, earlier this month, Eswaran as well QNet's other absconding officials were present in the company's annual meet VCon, held between 3rd to 7 May 2016 at Penang city in Malaysia along with actor and producer Anil Kapoor, he added.
Anand said, "The actor (Kapoor) went further and clicked photographs with QNet chief Vijay Eswaran, who is prime accused in the first information report (FIR) filed at Mumbai and Tamil Nadu Goldquest case, Pathman Senathirajah, another accused, Sathi Senathirajah, Zaheer Merchant-Legal Head, and Dev Wadhwani. The more disturbing part was that his pictures with Infinity (one of the most aggressive team of QNet IRs in India) founders Wadhwani, an absconding accused and Sachin Gupta, who is also absconding in the Mumbai EOW case, were found to be circulating in social media by Indian and other independent representatives (IRs) of QNet. The SFIO, in its secret report has termed GoldQuest and QuestNet companies as 'a potential threat to national security' and yet we find Bollywood actor Mr Kapoor's photos with absconding criminals."
"In spite of having complete and full knowledge of background of the company, Mr Kapoor went one step ahead and posted a tweet through his personal account, which is followed by one million people. His pictures, statements were quickly circulated through social media by the company's official PR (linked here http://www.qbuzz.qnet.net/blog/2016/05/06/anil-kapoor-makes-splash-vcon16/ ) and by thousands of Indian IRs so as to drive home the point that the business of the company was legal in India," Anand said.
According to Anand, another Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan was brand ambassador of QIComm of UK, which is a unit of QI group. "Videos of the brand endorsement are still being circulated by QNet representatives to cheat Indians. The videos are all available on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/qicomm , which were shared with me by an investigating agency. However, there is still no action or investigation in this matter. Incidentally, QIComm has been recently declared as bankrupt by the UK government," he added.
Anand said, "I have been informed that high volume cash transactions caught across the borders of UK were actually proceeds out of recruiting new people under the QNet scan and since QNet is not officially operating in UK, the proceeds were being laundered through QIComm. This UK company had been offering various sham and bogus products online. One such product is called In-Voice, which enables the buyers to use VOIP protocol to make international calls using the Internet. Many people in India were sold these products though QIComm. QNET or Vihaan do not hold any valid license to offer international calling services from India. These companies have not only cheated Indians using the name of Shah Rukh Khan but also compromised on the national security of our country."
"The details of monetary transactions between actor Shah Rukh Khan and QIComm for advertising and promoting the company's products must be investigated," Anand demanded.
Similarly, another Bollywood actor Aamir Khan was shown on a Facebook post shared on QNet's official page along with Mark Ferreira, son of Michael Ferreira, another accused in the case. One Parth Parikh, who shared this photo has stated under the photo, "Hurrey we signed Aamir Khan in our business. Let rock xxx".
Separately, police on Tuesday arrested Ram Singh, one of the top most leader of QNet from Bengaluru. Singh was brought to Mumbai and remanded to five days of police custody by the Sessions Court.