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Business Brief

 

  • With just 8 days to go before the all-important Interim Budget is set to be announced on 1st Feb, Piyush Goyal, the current Railways and Coal Minister, was given additional charge of Finance and Corporate Affairs Ministries as well. Current Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has undergone surgery in the US on Tuesday and has been advised 2 weeks rest. The announcement of Goyal’s appointment was made on Wednesday evening after President Ram Nath Kovind on the instructions of PM Narendra Modi directed that Goyal be given temporary charge of Finance and Corporate Affairs Ministries. It is likely that the Interim Finance Minister will present the Interim Budget which is set to provide income support and funding relief to the farm sector and may also try to incorporate some feel-good factors for small and medium enterprises. The Interim Budget is also likely to contain the Modi Government’s economic and social sector achievements and comes at a time of high expectations amid an election year. Piyush Goyal is a sort of “care-taker” Finance Minister, as he had been given temporary charge of the two ministries last year as well for little over 3 months when Arun Jaitley had been on leave for a kidney transplant. Being a Chartered Accountant and a rank holder at that, one could say that Piyush Goyal is familiar with the technical aspects and the workings of the Finance and Corporate Affairs Ministries.

 

  • The CBI has registered an FIR in connection with alleged irregularities in the 3,250 core Rs ICICI Bank-Videocon case and carried out searches on Thursday at the group’s headquarters in Mumbai and offices in Aurangabad – a PTI report has suggested. The search also covered offices of NuPower, a company operated by Deepak Kochhar, who is the husband of ex-ICICI Bank CEO, Chanda Kochhar. Venugopal Dhoot led Videocon Group had invested crores of rupees in NuPower – the firm promoted by Deepak Kochhar, after Videocon got the 3,250 crore Rs loan from ICICI Bank, back in 2012. The CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry against Venugopal Dhoot, Deepak Kochhar and unidentified others, and on the basis of this enquiry, went on to further lodge an FIR to probe criminal charges against evidence collected during this enquiry. However, the details of the FIR and the names of the accused are still awaited. Chanda Kochhar had stepped down as the bank’s MD & CEO amid this controversy in October of last year.

 

  • In a big development emerging recently, several Public Sector Banks are planning to sell their bad loans to Asset Reconstruction Companies and NBFCs. Names such as Dena Bank, IDBI Bank, Punjab National Bank, United Bank of India are among those that have put up their bad loans for sale at a considerable discount. The bad loans that are put on the block for sale may total a staggering 1 trillion or 1 lakh crore Rs. Just over the past 2 weeks, the country’s largest lender, SBI, has put its entire loan exposure in Essar Steel worth 15,431 crore Rs on the block for sale, and Central Bank of India (another PSB) has decided to sell its entire 1,550 crore exposure of Bhushan Power & Steel. The decision by SBI to sell its exposure in Essar Steel seems to have sent out a broader message. The reason for this decisive action is the unduly long delay in the resolution process of these stressed accounts. Bankruptcy proceedings are going at a much slower pace than what the bankers had envisaged and many cases have gone beyond the 270 days (180 + 90 days) timeline set under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. In fact, of the 12 large accounts referred to for insolvency in 2017 – known as “the dirty dozen” – only 3 have been resolved. The Essar case has been dragging for more than 500 days now. The primary reason behind the delay in resolution is the repeated litigation by parties involved in the insolvency process. Recently, the logic of the banks seems to be, to recover a lesser amount of money now by selling the bad loans at a discount, rather than wait for a larger amount of loss at a later stage.

 

 

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