State Bank of India, India's largest lender, was looking at acquisitions of up to $1 billion in the UK and expected to maintain a 40 per cent growth rate in its UK business, senior officials said on Thursday.
Dwelling on the overseas business plans, which would be driven by both organic expansion and acquisitions, the bank planned to open 40 branches overseas, SBI chairman OP Bhatt said addressing media jointly with Lord Mervin Davies, UK minister for trade and investment, here. The lender was looking at all geographies, including the UK, for acquisitions.
The bank has to date made three small-size acquisitions abroad. It acquired a majority holding in Mauritius-based Indian Ocean International Bank (IOIB) in early part of the decade. In 2008, it merged this subsidiary with SBI International (Mauritius) to consolidate its operations in the African island nation. The new entity has begun operations as SBI (Mauritius). It has made similar small acquisitions in Indonesia and Kenya.
Besides the UK, the regions where the bank plans to open new branches include North America (especially California), Bangladesh and Nepal, where its subsidiary will set up 11 more outfits. It will open five more in branches in the UK by June next year and make London a hub for its European operations to boost international business. At present, the lender has seven branches in the UK and would open another branch, hopefully by next month, Bhatt said.
Currently, the UK contributes over $3 billion to the bank's business. While the bank's India-related business has a major share in overseas operations, it wants to increase the volume of local business there.
Besides catering to banking needs of overseas Indians, SBI's foreign operations focus on Indian companies. It is providing overseas funding, including for mergers and acquisitions and local banking requirements of Indian businesses.
SBI was in the process of restructuring its international business and would make London as administrative hub for European operations by March 2010, Bhatt said.
On contribution of overseas business to the bank's bottomline, he said it would contribute over 10 per cent of profits in 2009-10, up from 8 per cent last year. Overseas business currently contributes around 12 per cent of the balance sheet. The assets of foreign offices and subsidiaries grew by 20 per cent to $23.73 billion in 2008-09. Its foreign offices earned a net profit of $151 million in 2008-09.
UK seeks further opening of Indian financial markets
Seeking more room for overseas financial firms, the UK today sought a liberal branch opening regime for its banks to tap the vast Indian market.
There is a huge pent-up demand for business (such as banking and insurance). India has to become more open . It helps to raise the standards, UK Minister for Trade, Investment and Business Mervyn Davies told reporters at the State Bank of India headquarters in Mumbai today.
India is changing and has become a key player in the G-20 grouping. UK hopes RBI would allow international banks to open more branches here, he said.
Earlier this year, the central bank had put on hold a road map for foreign banks' presence in India, citing uncertain global conditions.
The statement from the UK comes three weeks before negotiators from India and the European Union meet to discuss liberlisation of merchandise and services trade. Opening up of financial services — banking and insurance — figures prominently on the EU agenda.