Important Business News Extracts – January 15 2017
No witch-hunting: new Islami Bank chairman assures staff
The new management of Islami Bank will not indulge in any “witch hunting” of its employees, its Chairman Arastoo Khan said yesterday. One can vote for any party, but it must not reflect on employees’ professional activities, he said after a meeting with Finance Minister AMA Muhith at his secretariat. Khan cited diverting funds from the Islami Bank Foundation towards political movement in the guise of corporate social responsibility activity as a case of subversion. Bangladesh usually takes funding from China and other countries to finance the projects. Although the loans come with a 2.0% interest rate, the financing cost turns out to be not very low, he said. Islami Bank will run all of its activities in accordance with Shariah principles, but recruitment, promotion and transfer will be solely merit-based and irrespective of religion, caste and creed, he said. As of 2016, Islami Bank’s deposit stands BDT 680.0 billion, according to the statement.
Islami Bank pledges to keep customers’ deposits safe
Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd will pay utmost priority to safeguarding the deposits of its customers, said the lender on the heels of the wholesale changes in its board. The commitment was reiterated at the bank’s annual business conference in Dhaka on Friday. Islami Bank has a deposit of BDT 680.0 billion and an advance of BDT 650.0 billion. The conference came a week after a major reshuffle in the board and management of the bank. On January 5, former bureaucrat Arastoo Khan, a representative of little known companies to the board, was elected chairman. Changes were also brought to the posts of managing director and heads of various committees of the bank and chief of the Islami Bank Foundation. Now, of the 16 board of directors, seven are independent directors, seven from little known companies and two are foreign sponsors’ representatives.
Government saving instruments are preferred to depositing in banks or investing in stocks as the profit rates of the instruments are relatively high. People are increasingly choosing to buy saving instruments instead of depositing their money in banks or investing in stock markets. According to the Credit Debt Management Council (CDMC) meeting held recently, the government has collected BDT 203.3 billion from the sale of saving instruments as of November 2016, which is 70.4% of the government’s total credit target in the current fiscal year. The government has a target to borrow BDT 288.6 billion during the fiscal year 2016-17.
The government’s net borrowing from the banking sector turned negative in the first half of this financial year because of a surge in the net investment by clients in the national savings certificates and bonds. According to the latest Bangladesh Bank data, the government made no net borrowing from the banking sources in the July-December period of the FY 2016-17 but made a net repayment of BDT 102.4 billion in the period. The government had also made a net repayment of BDT 35.8 billion in the first half of the FY 2015-16 against its previous borrowing from the banking sector. The BB data showed that the government repaid BDT 101.2 billion and BDT 1.1 billion to the central bank and scheduled banks respectively in six months of FY17 against its previous loans, making the government’s overall bank borrowing negative of BDT 102.4 billion. A BB official told New Age on Thursday that the government had got a respite from the bank borrowing in the recent period as the net investment in the national savings certificates and bonds surpassed BDT 203.2 billion in just five months (July-November) of FY17. The government aimed to borrow BDT 196.1 billion from the NSCs in FY17, but its borrowing through the tools crossed the annual target between July and November as clients continued to invest heavily in the instruments due to low bank deposit rates amid sluggish business climate. According to the latest Directorate of National Savings data, the net investment in the savings instruments increased by 79.4% to BDT 203.2 billion in the July-November period of FY17 compared with that of BDT 113.3 billion during the same period of FY16.
Mobile wallet users will struggle following the implementation of the central bank’s latest directive, which lowered the ceiling for transactions. In an effort to arrest the misuse of the system, Bangladesh Bank on Wednesday dispatched a notice instructing mobile financial service providers to allow a maximum of BDT 15,000 to be deposited into an account each day and BDT 10,000 to be taken out. The limit previously was BDT 25,000 for both deposit and withdrawal. The MFS providers are yet to lower the transaction ceiling and the agents and users have no idea about the new BB directive. The correspondent spoke to a cross-section of MFS users and all said the BB move would bring great inconvenience to them, affect their businesses and limit their ability to enjoy the full benefits of the service.
New Monetary Policy Statement may keep private sector credit growth target unchanged
Bangladesh Bank may keep unchanged the private sector credit growth target in the upcoming monetary policy statement (MPS) for January-June of 2017 considering the existing lower credit demand from the private sector amid sluggish business, said officials of the central bank. Under the monetary programme for financial year 2016-17, the central bank had set a 16.6% credit growth target for the private sector by December 2016 and 16.5% by June 2017. A BB official told New Age on Thursday that it would be a tough job for the financial sector to achieve the targeted private sector credit growth of 16.5% by June of FY17 as the credit demand from the private sector was still sluggish amid dull business.
The country’s import grew by 14.6% in the first five months of the current fiscal year (FY) mainly due to increased purchase of capital machinery, officials said. The actual import in terms of settlement of letters of credit (LCs) rose to USD 19.0 billion during the July-November of FY 2016-17 from USD 16.6 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal, according to the central bank statistics. In contrast, the opening of LCs, known as import orders, increased by 6.95% to USD 18.7 billion in the first five months of FY 17 from USD 17.5 billion a year ago. Import of capital machinery or industrial equipment used for production jumped by nearly 81.0% to USD 2.5 billion in the first five months against USD 1.4 billion of the same period of FY16.
Queue for floating open-end Mutual Funds longer than closed-end ones
The number of pending proposals to float open-end mutual funds (MFs) has increased substantially with such MFs more popular than the closed-end ones, according to the officials and experts. The officials of Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) said a number of factors, including the scope of surrendering units as per net asset value (NAV) and tax benefits etc, are prompting the fund managers to float open-end MFs. The fund managers also termed the tendency of floating the MFs ‘very expected’ like the global trend of MF industry. According to BSEC information, the number of proposed unit funds is 12, whereas the number of pending IPO (initial public offering) proposals for closed-end MFs is only three. In 2016, the securities’ regulator approved trust deeds and prospectus of seven open-end funds, whereas the number of closed-end MFs was three. Of the 34 closed-end MFs, the market prices of 26 funds are presently below their face value of BDT 10.0 each. The initial sizes of these open-end MFs vary from BDT 200.0 million to BDT 2.0 billion.
A new ‘tax-benefit policy’ now in the offing would deny revenue defaulters the state facility of tax waiver, officials said. They said the National Board of Revenue (NBR) has made the move to frame the policy to filter the tax-benefit recipients. Only “revenue-friendly” taxpayers would get through the screening. Corporate or individual taxpayers having arrears in income tax, value-added tax or import taxes may not be entitled to enjoy the tax-benefits after the making of the policy. The NBR in a recent board meeting directed its three policy wings – income tax, VAT and customs – to frame a draft of the policy. To begin with, the sources said, the government’s revenue board has already started curtailing the tax benefit for some of the organizations after having found large amounts of revenue arrears tucked under their accounts for years.
July-November income tax collection short of target by BDT 26.5 billion
Income tax collection faced an aggregate shortfall of BDT 26.5 billion against its target until November of the current fiscal year (FY) mainly due to sluggish trend in corporate tax collection from commercial banks, poor bank interest rates and downward trend of investment. According to a provisional estimate, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) set BDT 209.8 billion target for income tax collection for 31 tax zones across the country. However, the taxmen could collect BDT 183.3 billion in July-November period against the target. Although the collection is BDT 23.6 billion higher compared to the previous year’s collection and the income tax department achieved 14.8% growth, some 13 tax zones achieved the target while 19 tax zones missed it. Large Taxpayers Unit (LTU) under the income tax wing faced the large shortfall during the period. It collected BDT 42.05 billion income tax against its target for BDT 53.2 billion for July-November period, according to official data. The income tax wing received around BDT 19.0 billion, failing to meet its target BDT 27.0 billion as tax at source from bank interest rate from savings accounts and fixed deposit receipts (FDRs). Continuous fall in bank interest rate and shifting of bank depositors to government savings tools resulted in BDT 8.6 billion shortfall in the first five months of the current FY, said a senior tax official. Bank interest rate on saving schemes came down to 2.5% on an average in recent times.
GDP growth to reach 8.0% in two years, says Finance Minister
Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said on Saturday that Bangladesh would attain 8.0 per cent growth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in two years, reports BSS. The minister was addressing the opening ceremony of the three-day “Kuakata Mega Beach Carnival 2017” here in the afternoon. Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), for the first time, is organising such an event at the South-eastern region’s sandy beach to promote it among tourists at home and abroad. He said disparity between the poor and the rich is also diminishing rapidly, placing Bangladesh among the fast moving countries in fighting poverty.
The government has moved afresh to initiate a deal with Qatar’s Ras Gas to import expensive LNG six years after inking a MoU, said sources. A high-level government team is expected to visit Qatar within this month to discuss elaborately on issues regarding the quantity of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be imported from Qatar and its pricing, LNG Cell Chief of Petrobangla Md Quamruzzaman told the FE Saturday. State-run Petrobangla earlier had inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Qatar in January 2011 to import around 4.0 million tonnes of LNG annually.
Sales of motorcycles rose by 15.0% to 20.0% and prices went down by around 15% last month as major importers are registering themselves as ‘progressive manufacturers’ to enjoy 20.0% tax waiver. Sources at the Ministry of Industries said Bangladesh Honda Private Ltd, Uttara Motors, Mahindra, TVS, Suzuki, Keeway and Niloy Motors have applied to be registered as ‘progressive manufacturers’. As per step-wise localization plan, a registered importer will get two years for vetting period. During this time, the import can import CKD motorcycle. During the third year, an importer has to produce 10.0% parts in local manufacturing set-up. Gradually, it will reach 50.0% in the seventh year. Honda and Uttara Motors have reduced prices of their motorcycles. Other brands will reduce their prices very soon. The National Board of Revenue (NBR) in the fiscal year 2015-16 imposed 15.0% supplementary duty on motorcycle importers which stood at 45% as there was already 30.0% SD on such imports. Uttara reduced prices up to 15.0% on all their brands. The industry insiders said sales of motorcycles in the country had been continuously dropping since imposition of Supplementary Duty (SD) in the 2015-16 budget.The sales volume was 255,000 pieces in 2010-11 financial year, 2,30,000 pcs in 2011-12, 2,20,000 pcs in 2012-13, 1,84,000 pcs in 2013-14, 175,000 pcs in 2014-15, and 1,60,000 pcs in 2015-16, according to the Motorcycle Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh (MMEAB) data.
1.3 million SIMs blocked for illegal calls in 9 months
The telecom regulator blocked 1.3 million SIMs of six mobile phone operators during January-September last year as those were used in carrying international calls illegally. Of the blocked SIMs, 61.0% were from state-owned operator Teletalk, according to an internal report of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission. The telecom watchdog seized 20,593 SIMs in raids against illegal routing of international calls during the period. The mobile operators blocked 83,819 SIMs by self-regulation; 41,679 SIMs used in illegal call termination were detected by two European sample testing companies. Teletalk has been at the top in illegal call termination for several years though its market share is only 2.5%, according to the report. BTRC officials said they informed the government and the parliamentary standing committee on the telecom ministry about the illegal practice of Teletalk. According to the BTRC report, 0.25 million Grameenphone SIMs and 0.15 million Robi SIMs were blocked during the period for illegal call termination. If any SIM carries more than two hours of international calls on a single day, it would automatically be blocked, a directive says. In the nine months, Teletalk blocked 0.36million SIMs by self-regulation. By self-regulation, Grameenphone blocked 0.25 million SIMs and Robi 0.14 million, according to the report.
The ACI agribusiness sale has soared by 26.0% last year as the company is set to bring sustainable agriculture solutions for the future. One of the largest business conglomerates of the country, the ACI has so far brought some 15m farmers under its business fold getting them agricultural services. The service sectors include crop and animal healthcare, fertilizer, seeds and other agricultural technology. Dr FH Ansarey, executive director of ACI Agribusiness, said this yesterday while addressing the ACI Annual Conference 2017 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center in Dhaka. Ansarey said the company’s agribusiness sale grew by 26% last year while it is committed to improving lives of those involved in farming with high-tech advantages.
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