Important Business News Extracts – February 13 2017
Ban on blank cheques
Country’s commercial banks are barred from receiving blank cheques as security from their clients against loan or investment to check fraud and forgery. The central bank issued a notification to this effect to the managing directors and chief executive officers of all of the scheduled banks, asking them not to entertain Non-Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) cheque as security. The Bangladesh Bank (BB) took the measure in the wake of a rising trend in fraud and forgery through use of the MICR cheque, according to the notification.
Overall non-performing loan (NPL) situation in the state-owned commercial banks, hitting a 25.0% high, emerged as “alarming”, said Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir. The central-bank chief also noticed the SOCBs’ credits concentrated in some few business groups. Only four big businesses hold 25% of total loans one of the state-owned banks–Janata Bank-he cited as an example of problems with the banking performance. MCCI president Nihad Kabir made the welcome address at the meeting, also attended by top members of the business community. The central bank governor said such a high level of NPLs in the banking system also has been contributing to the rise in lending rates that impact on small businesses. However, he said, NPLs in the banking sector overall remained just over 10%. The governor also termed falling remittance as another matter of concern for the economy, as the inflow of money from the wage-earners, according to him, registered a 17.0% negative growth last December in comparison with the same period a year before.
Banks asked not to impose early settlement fees on current loans
Bangladesh Bank on Sunday asked the banks not to impose any early settlement fees on the clients’ current or demand loans. The banks are now charging at least two per cent early settlement fees against the clients’ outstanding credit amount. The banks disburse the current loan (CC loan) on short-term basis for between 1 day and 1 year to businesses. The BB issued a circular to managing directors and chief executive officers of all banks asking them not to impose any early settlement fees on the clients’ term loan if the banks took decision to increase the rate of interest. The banks will have to issue notice to the clients if they increase the rate of interest on the term loans.
IFIC Bank allowed to transfer USD 12.28 million to its Nepal venture
Bangladesh Bank has allowed IFIC Bank to transfer USD 12.28 million (nearly BDT 980.0 million) to buy rights shares in Nepal Bangladesh Bank, a commercial bank IFIC set up in 1994 with Nepalese entrepreneurs. The central bank last month declined to give IFIC the green light for the fund transfer on the grounds that profit repatriation from NB Bank was significantly lower than its investments. Instead, it advised IFIC to provide the capital by selling the bonus shares received as dividends for fiscal 2015-16. The central bank also asked IFIC to repatriate the rest of the money after buying the rights shares. IFIC holds 40.91% stakes in the joint venture bank in Nepal and it needed to transfer the sum to buy right shares against the holdings to meet the regulatory requirement of the central bank of Nepal. NB Bank has to increase its capital to USD 70.0 million by 2017. Between 1994 and 2014, IFIC Bank transferred a total of USD 26.18 million to Nepal and repatriated only USD 1.39 million, according to a BB report. The report shows that the share price of NB Bank reached a highest of USD 8.0 a share from USD 4.77 in fiscal year 2015-16. Had IFIC Bank sold its bonus share, it would have bagged over USD 32 million — enough to buy the rights shares. Moreover, the bank will be able to repatriate over USD 23 million into Bangladesh. However, IFIC’s stakes in NB Bank would come down to 30.99%. At present, IFIC has controlling power of NB Bank, taking up three posts of the seven-member board. If IFIC sold the bonus shares, it would lose one spot from the board and control of the bank as well. NB Bank counted USD 11.23 million as profit in fiscal 2015-16.
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has reneged on its pledge on financing a power plant to be implemented by the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), officials said. The Bank while withdrawing raised a few questions about the selection of bidder for the project. Following withdrawal by the IDB, the BPDB has completed the necessary process to secure financing from the ‘electricity development and maintenance fund (EDMF)’ for the project. The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) established the fund in February 2011 with proceeds from the increased bulk electricity tariff to boost low-cost power generation capacity across the country. The IDB had committed to provide USD 85.0 million to implement the project aimed at converting Sylhet 150-megawatt (MW) gas turbine power plant to 225 MW combined cycle power plant. But the bank recently moved out of the commitment allegedly due to smelling rat in the bidder selection process, officials said. On the other hand, Shanghai Electric proposed to restore the GT output to 150.45 MW enabling them to offer a much higher output guarantee for the CCPP of 231.29 MW, it maintained. On the other hand, Shanghai Electric proposed to restore the GT output to 150.45 MW enabling them to offer a much higher output guarantee for the CCPP of 231.29 MW, it maintained.
Bangladesh’s apparel exports to the US, its single largest destination, declined 1.96% year-on-year to USD 5.49 billion, due to the volatile US economy and the recent presidential election. Bangladesh exported USD 5.92 billion worth of goods to the US in 2016, down from USD 6 billion a year ago, according to data from the US Department of Commerce. Garment items account for 95.0% of the goods exported from Bangladesh to the US market. Moreover, businessmen and traders adopted the “wait and see” strategy in 2016 for the probable changes to the major US policies relating to tariffs. Furthermore, there is a change in the attitude of the US consumers, who now prefer spending more on electronic gadgets compared to clothes, exporters said. Global apparel exports to the US declined 6.44% year-on-year to USD 104.72 billion in 2016 due to a fall in the buying capacity of the US consumers, said Mohammed Nasir, vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. More electronic gadgets are now sold in the US compared to the clothing items, he said. The US election has also impacted retail sales negatively, he said. All 9 out of 10 top apparel exporting nations of the world experienced negative growth in shipment to the US in 2016, according to the US Department of Commerce. Among the top 10, only Vietnam’s apparel export increased 0.30% year-on-year to USD 11.32 billion in 2016. Businessmen believe that the apparel export from Vietnam to the US may face stricter rules as the Trump administration abandoned the mega trade agreement of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Retail-industry sales are predicted to grow between 3.7% and 4.2% this year over 2016, the National Retail Federation (NRF) in the US forecast. Bangladesh’s garment exports to the UK, the third largest destination for the Asian country, declined 5.19% year-on-year to USD 1.53 billion in the July-December period of the current fiscal year.
Grameenphone returns unused balance of blocked SIMs to regulator
Grameenphone yesterday deposited BDT 73.3 million with the telecom regulator against the unused balance of connections that were blocked in between 2008 and 2014. Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission had blocked 2,540,666 SIMs of the market leader in the six years to December 31, 2014. Those SIMs were barred for allegations of use in illegal call termination and most had unused credit balance stored in them. In a letter to BTRC, Grameenphone said the total unused balance of the SIMs blocked in the six years was BDT 93.7 million, of which, it has already deposited BDT 12.2 million to the government exchequer as 15% VAT. The operator also deducted BDT 81.44 lakh — 10% of the amount — as different taxes that they have already paid to different government authorities, reads the letter signed by Hossain Sadat, a director of the company. But it changed the decision last month and formed a committee to explore the option of reselling blocked SIMs. As of October last year, Grameenphone has 55.7 million active subscribers out of the country’s total of 127.4 million.
Bangladesh’s biggest flower market in Jhikargachha, Jessore, is witnessing significant changes that will see it gain a modern market infrastructure with help from the US Army. Specifically, the world-renowned US Army Engineering Corps, not combatants. For the growers who have turned a stretch of land off the Jessore-Benapole highway into a piece of Holland in Bangladesh, the initiative led by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) couldn’t come soon enough. The growth of the industry they built from scratch has recently outpaced the rest of the economy, and looks set to continue.
Mismanagement, lack of a strategy and enforcement of law are killing tourism in Bangladesh. For example the natural forest of Jaflong is disappearing rapidly due to dumping of stone illegally excavated from the Dawki and Sari rivers by a group of profit mongering traders. No wonder tourism in this scenic hill station, home to subtropical mountains, rainforests, tea gardens and the Khasia ethnic group is on the decline.
Government to sign exploration deal with Posco Daewoo despite criticism
The government is all set to sign a deal with South Korean company Posco Daewoo Corporation to lease a major deep sea block for gas and oil exploration after getting approval from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. The committee approved the proposal on February 8 allowing Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation (Petrobangla) to sign the contract under the Speedy Supply of Power and Energy (Special Provision) Act 2010. Under the contract, Posco Daewoo will explore deep sea block 12 (DS 12). If gas is found in the block, the company will sell 1,000 cubic feet of gas at USD 6.5 per unit. The South Korean company has already invited tender applications from third parties to conduct a two-dimensional seismic survey in the block. The deadline for submission is on February 16. The contract is a first of its kind in the country as Posco Daewoo has been selected directly under the special act, instead of through the traditional tender procedure, sources said. The government has decided to bypass the usual bidding rounds and purchase oil and gas explored by international oil companies (IOCs) in the Bay of Bengal at a competitive price, they added.
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