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RBI mulls limit on members in lending consortium: Gandhi


Mumbai:  With growing concerns over bad loans, the Reserve Bank is looking at the possibility of limiting the number of lenders in a consortium for better oversight of credit, Deputy Governor R Gandhi said today.

Banks lend to large projects in a consortium, which is generally led by the one with the maximum exposure to the account. There have been cases of number of lenders in a single consortium going up to 18.

“It is said that banks with very meagre share neither have incentives nor inclination to independently assess proposals and they typically blindly go by the decisions by banks who have a bigger share,” Gandhi said.

“The suggestion is to have a regulatory limit on the number of members in a consortium or multiple banking arrangements,” he said at an industry event organised by ETEdge here.

He was quick to point out that there are multiple sides to such a demand which need to be assessed.

“There is the other side of the story also because there has to be freedom for borrowers and banks to decide commercially whether they want to be in a consortium or not. Or why should there be a regulatory constraint, that’s a counterside of the suggestion,” he said.

RBI will discuss this suggestion with “all the stakeholders”, including bankers and borrowers, he added. He did not give a timeline for a decision on the issue.

State Bank of India’s deputy managing director in-charge of stressed assets management, M G Vaidyan said such a move would be beneficial for the bankers.

“If there are 15 people, 20 people in the consortium, there is obviously a problem,” he said.

With stressed assets in the system, non performing assets (NPAs) and the restructured assets, reaching the double digit mark, Gandhi said there is an urgent need to reduce them and clean up the balance sheets.

He said there is also a suggestion to form a cell for stressed assets resolution, on the lines of the corporate debt restructuring cell.

On the issue of asset quality stress, he said RBI is also seeking to amend certain sections of Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002.

Through the amendment, RBI is seeking to deepen the secondary market for security receipts (SRs) issued when asset reconstruction companies purchase a bad asset from bank, by expanding categories of investors who are allowed to trade.

“The suggestion relates to who can be an eligible investor to enter into this market. So we have suggested that the RBI, in consultation with Sebi, can determine who can (enter the market),” Gandhi said.

He said the RBI is mulling to give high networth individuals direct access to the secondary market where the SRs are traded, rather than the present case, where they have to be registered as qualified institutonal buyers.

Apart from this, there are also amendments to Section 7 of the Sarfaesi Act being considered, he said, adding that the suggestion is to relax the 10 per cent cap on the sponsor bank’s interest in a case.

He asked banks to support borrowers even after declaring them as NPAs.

“The purpose of asset classification provisioning is to present a true picture of banks’ balance sheet, and not to stigmatise accounts or borrowers,” he reasoned.

He said there is a low pick up in asset sales to ARCs due to the high price expectations of the lenders and the tendancy within ARCs to squeeze outgos.

“The issue is best resolved by market forces and market participants. Indian Banks’ Association in consultation with Association of Asset Reconstruction Companies may draw contours of mutually acceptable methodology for reserve price valuation,” he suggested.

There is also a need for debt aggregation in cases of sales of an account to ARCs, he said, adding that sale of entire debt of a single borrower to a single ARC can help in early and effective resolution of stress.

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