Government on Friday said that ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank cannot be called Indian-owned banks, setting at rest the debate generated over the nationality of the top two private sector lenders.
“At best, the two can be called as Indian-controlled banks,” DIPP secretary R P Singh said when asked about the government’s stand in the wake of the two seeking clarifications on the matter.
“ICICI Bank managing director and CEO (Chanda Kochhar met me day before yesterday; she has discussed (the issue) with me,” he said.
ICICI Bank had maintained that it continues to be an Indian bank as its management and Board was Indian.
However, both ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank’s have over 74 per cent foreign holding, including that of foreign banks and overseas institutional investors.
“Banks will be covered in one paper which we are trying to bring out on the financial aspects totally. . . it will cover banks also,” he said referring to the six discussion papers on FDI that the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion is planning to bring out soon.
“You know the definition of what is a company controlled by Indians and what is the definition of a company owned by Indians,” Singh said.
Going by the definition, they are certainly a bank which is not owned by Indians, because equity of at least 74 per cent or around 74 per cent is from outside, he pointed out, buttressing the government’s stand.
But they can be construed as banks controlled by Indians if the majority of directors are Indians and right to directorship is with Indians. So depending upon that they are construed as banks controlled by India, but they can certainly not be called banks owned by Indians.
Earlier reports had said that the Reserve Bank of India may come to the rescue of banks, such as ICICI and HDFC Bank, which are majority owned by foreign funds or entities.
RBI might issue a notification classifying them as ‘foreign-owned Indian banks’, even as the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion is firm that any company with more than 51 per cent foreign equity should be considered as a foreign company. This definition was included in foreign direct investment guidelines issued in February 2009.