MUMBAI (Reuters) - State-run State Bank of India (SBI) is looking to acquire banks in Africa and Southeast Asia as it seeks to ramp up its overseas operations, a senior company source with direct knowledge of the matter said.
India’s top lender plans to spend roughly $200 million on an overseas acquisition and will mainly focus on banks with strong corporate banking services in the two regions, the source said.
“Earlier, we were looking at large acquisitions, but after the global financial meltdown, we are looking at smaller deals,” the source, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters.
“We are looking for acquisitions in these markets because we see enormous opportunities there on rising interest of Indian companies there. Expanding operations there on our own would be challenging.”
SBI, which has a market value of about $37 billion, is aiming to raise the international operations’ contributions to the group net profit to 25 percent over the next five years from about 16 percent now, the source said.
As cash-rich Indian firms farm out across the globe through a slew of merger and acquisitions and joint ventures, stodgy Indian banks are also looking to follow suit to serve the needs of the local companies.
SBI, which controls a quarter of Indian bank loans and deposits along with its associates, and its rivals ICICI Bank Ltd and HDFC Bank Ltd have been slower than their Chinese counterparts in expanding international operations.
China Construction Bank (CCB), the country’s No. 2 lender, is keen to acquire a stake in Malaysian lender EON Capital Bhd, The Edge weekly newspaper reported last month.
SBI’s international loan book grew nearly 18 percent from a year ago to touch $24.6 billion at end-December, data on the bank’s website shows. The bank’s total loan book was at $164 billion as at end-December.
“Our focus is on improving the quality of our international loan book rather than growing our loan book at a very aggressive pace,” the source said. “We want to steadily increase the share of international operations to the group’s bottomline.”
Shares in the lender ended 1.6 percent lower on Thursday at 2,589.70 rupees in the main Mumbai market that fell 0.8 percent. The stock is down nearly 8 percent this year compared with an 11-percent drop in the benchmark index.
The SBI source said that the bank planned to launch operations in Malaysia, Brazil, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Qatar this year, to take its presence to 37 countries.
“We have got the regulatory approval for launching operations in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and we are awaiting approval from authorities in other countries,” he said.
“India’s increasing trading volume with countries like South Korea and Brazil has opened up lot of opportunities for bank like us as we can provide them all the services under one roof,” the executive said.
SBI’s international services include trade financing, corporate lending, loan syndications, merchant banking, handling letters of credit and guarantees and providing short-term financing. It also provides retail banking services in some countries.
SBI will also expand its network of branches in its key overseas markets including the United States and Britain this year, the source said.
Editing by Malini Menon