Wednesday, May 06, 2009

"Indian bankers, don't you carp later"

It’s tough time for banks and borrowers alike. The stiff 5% CRR and 24% SLR leaves banks with no choice but to keep their cost of lending to corporates high. Working Capital has become all the more expensive to businesses at a time when cash flows are squeezed and order inflows have dried up.

I wonder why the banks don’t invest in equities (preferably thro a 100% SPV) of sound companies that come with a Board seat to enable them exercise a closer watch ? Now that equity valuations have come to realistic levels and companies badly need low cost funds to sustain till they get over the recessionary times. For the banks, it would be a great idea to adopt this neo-private equity model because it comes with built in tax benefits since the returns will be in the nature of long term capital gains that are either exempt or are taxable at concessional rates. Since these are in the nature of investments, the SPV’s don’t need any elaborate set-up and can at best be a desk in one corner of its treasury operations wing.

When Henry Kravis comes calling, that’s proof enough that Indian equities are good bets. So bankers, sit up and take notice. Or else, Kravis would have you for lunch and dinner before you say `protection’. Or worse, it could be the turn of J.C.Flowers.

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