Friday, April 29, 2016

Vijay Mallya's offer

Excuse me if I sound naive or I am missing important details but it seems to me that, on the face of it, businessman Vijay Mallya's offer to banks is a pretty decent one and banks should get into serious talks with him. They can hope to write back losses and boost profits in the quarter ahead if they do so.

FT reports today that Mr Mallya is willing to repay 440 million pounds out of a principal amount of 512 million pounds. The Indian papers had reported an offer of close to Rs 7000 crore. The banks need to clearly indicate what figure is acceptable to them and what terms they would like. Simply rejecting an offer does not take us anywhere.

Bankers know very well that going down the legal route- getting Mr Mallya extradited and, perhaps, arrested on return- will not take them very far. Indeed, the danger is that a legal battle will stretch out for years and the banks get back very little. The government needs to make up its mind: does it want to get Mr Mallya or does it want the banks' money back?

I had a chance to talk to some bankers. They all agreed that they go for Mr Mallya's offer. However, they told me they would not lift their little finger until the government told them in writing that that they could go ahead. As one of them put it," Who wants the CBI after him five years from now?".

It's a pretty sad state of affairs. We are faced with banking paralysis today, a variant of the policy paralysis that undermined the UPA government. Stalled projects can't go through to completion because banks are unwilling to take a hair-cut and plough in fresh funds. They can't effect recoveries again because they can't take the necessary hair-cuts. Because they can't effect recoveries, their capital position is worsening and they are unable to make new loans. Fear psychosis has gripped bankers in the public sector- so much so that bankers are now focused on retail lending and would like to stay out of corporate loans and especially project finance.

Banking paralysis is, perhaps, the biggest factor impending our economy recovery along with falling exports. The government needs to get its act together. The steps required are: an independent Settlement Advisory Board to vet loan settlements; recovery followed by fresh lending; and infusion of greater capital into banks. Without this combination of measures, prospects of accelerating growth are pretty dim.

Here is a quote from Mr Mallya's interview with FT:
Chain-smoking cigarillos and sipping English tea, the pony-tailed multimillionaire confirms he has offered, in a submission to India’s Supreme Court, to repay £440m on outstanding principal of £512m borrowed from state banks. 

But the banks declined because — in his words — they are fearful of taking any haircut on their loans in the face of the public frenzy whipped up against him in India.
“It is important to understand the environment in India today. The electronic media is playing a huge role not just in moulding public opinion but in inflaming the government to a very large extent.”

.....Mr Mallya blames the political climate for the failure to reach a deal with the banks, a climate that saw him described this week as a “fugitive from justice” by the country’s attorney-general.
“As professional bankers, they would like to settle and move on but, because of my image as portrayed, they are reluctant to be seen as giving me any discount,” he says. “It will attract huge media criticism and inquiries by vigilance agencies in India.”

1 comment:

K.R.Srivarahan said...

Vijay Mallya is responsible for his present plight. Making bankers accountable (as he had earlier done)because of their appraisal and sanction is a red herring. Wilful non-payment of dues to employees, oil companies, airport authorities, government and bankers prevents even the most empathetic from pleading for him.

He has resources to pay in full to the banks. Therefore, there is no justification for any haircut. Secondly, granting concessions to the blatantly reckless will have a disastrous demonstration effect and will tempt every other borrower to demand concessions. If concessions become an entitlement even for the notoriously indisciplined borrower, NPAs will only snowball.