Bangladesh’s Sonali Bank’s UK branch has been fined £3.25 million (US $4.04 million) for anti-money laundering failings. Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) slapped the fine on the state owned bank of Bangladesh for its failures in anti-money laundering controls. Sonali Bank (UK), 51 per cent owned by the Bangladesh government, had “serious and systemic weaknesses” at almost all levels of its anti-money laundering control structure, the FCA said on Wednesday.
Bangladesh Bank moves to prepare database of mortgaged land properties
The central bank has planned to prepare a comprehensive databank of mortgaged land properties aiming to prevent its reuse in taking out loans from banks and financial institutions, officials said. “Bangladesh Bank (BB) is working on a database of land properties mortgaged with the country’s existing banks and financial institutions against their loans. The move is now in initial stage,” a high official of the central bank told the FE on Monday. Some information especially on quantity and value of mortgaged properties have been included in the central bank’s credit information table, Abu Farah Md Nasser, general manager of products and services analysis unit of BB, told the FE on Sunday. There is no option for reservation of ‘dag’, ‘khatian’ numbers and quantity of properties/lands. As a result, borrowers again can show same mortgaged properties while taking out loans from different banks, he added.
Brac Bank plans to raise BDT 5.0 billion through bonds
Brac Bank plans to raise BDT 5.0 billion by issuing subordinated bonds to expand business and consolidate capital base for fulfilling Basel-II requirements. “The board of directors has decided to issue the subordinated bonds with the tenure of 84 months to meet regulatory capital requirement as well as the need of business growth,” the bank said in a posting on the Dhaka Stock Exchange yesterday. The issuance of the bond is, however, subject to approval of regulatory authorities, including the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission. A subordinated bond is a debt security. It is referred to as subordinate because debt providers (lenders) have a subordinate status in relationship to the normal debt. It is also known as subordinated loan, debenture or junior debt that carries a lower-priority claim on the issuer’s income or assets than that of other debt. It is called term debt because it has a fixed maturity period. Such a debt has been designed to help banks boost their capital base in line with the requirements of Basel-II, a core guideline for banks in capital adequacy and risk management.
ICB to waive BDT 1.71 billion in interest on 12,849 stock investors’ loans
The Investment Corporation of Bangladesh has initiated a move to waive BDT 1.71 billion interest on margin loans that the entity provided to 12,849 investors. The state-owned entity took the initiative so that the investors can become active in trading. Of the investors, 7,074 investors will get 80% interest waiver as their portfolio turned negative due to the market fall since 2010-11. For example, an investor purchased shares worth BDT 200 taking BDT 100 as margin loans from ICB. Prices of the shares declined to BDT 80 due to market erosion meaning that the investor owes BDT 20 and interest on principle to ICB. Such type of investors will get 80% interest waiver and it will cost BDT 1.65 billion for ICB. The investors, however, will have to pay 20% of the interest to get the facility. Another 5,575 of the 12,849 investors will get full interest waiver as their portfolio value was zero against the loan disbursed by the ICB. The organization, however, expects that such waiver will positively impact on the investors accounts and help in loan recovery.
Bangladesh better than India, Pakistan in new Global Hunger Index
Bangladesh was ranked 90 among the 118 countries, worst than most of its neighbours China (29), Nepal (72), Myanmar (75) and Sri Lanka (84) in measuring hunger, by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). However its position is better than Pakistan (107) and India (97). As this Mint report notes, among Asian countries, India and Pakistan are at the bottom of the rankings in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) report released by US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), according to a report by www.firstpost.com. Brazil and Argentina have a GHI score of less than 5 and are ranked the best among developing nations, while countries like Chad and Central African Republic come at the bottom with a score of 44.3 and 46.1, respectively, the report says.
Trade deficit widened 5 percent in the first two months of the fiscal year on the back of a surge in imports. At the end of August, trade deficit stood at $525 million, which was $500 million a year earlier, according to central bank data. In case of growth, both import and export increased at an equal pace but trade deficit shot up as the amount for imports was more. Imports increased 7.43 percent but exports rose 7.65 percent. In terms of amount, exports raked in $5.71 billion during the July-August period and imports cost $6.23 billion. In case of imports, food import rose 53.98 percent. Rice imports dropped 91 percent in the first two months but wheat imports soared 115 percent. Intermediate goods import rose 10.12 percent and capital goods 17.43 percent. As a result of a big fall in remittance, the surplus in the current account balance in the first two months fell to about half compared to last year’s. In the first two months of fiscal 2016-17, current account surplus was $700 million, down from last year’s $1,343 million, according to Bangladesh Bank data.
Bilateral trade with China crosses USD 10.0 billion
The country’s bilateral merchandise trade with China crossed USD 10-billion mark in the last fiscal year (FY), 2015-16, with the balance heavily tilted to the dragon economy. The bilateral trade stood at USD10.45 billion in FY 16, which was USD9.02 billion in FY 15, according to the official statistics of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and Bangladesh Bank (BB). This is for the first time Bangladesh’s bilateral trade with any trading partner crosses USD10-billion level. The two countries are expecting further increase in bilateral trade and economic cooperation, as Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to make a landmark visit to Bangladesh on Friday. As import from China increased significantly, import payments stood at USD9.64 billion in FY 16 from USD8.23 billion in FY 15, according to BB statistics. Thus, import from China registered 17% growth last year, and it was around one-fifth of the annual import payments of Bangladesh. Besides being generally cheap, Chinese currency Yuan continued to decline, against the dollar and some other currencies during September 2015 and June 2016.
NBR gets extra Tk 1,191 crore in customs duty in Jul-Aug
The National Board of Revenue has got Tk 1,191 crore in additional customs duty in the first two months of the current fiscal year of 2016-2017 after setting minimum value and specific tariff for import of around 200 products in the national budget. Revenue collection increased in the period compared with that in the same period of the FY 2015-2016 just because of the measure taken to prevent duty evasion through under-invoicing of imported goods, according to the provisional data of the revenue board. Overall customs duty collection grew by 22.78 per cent in the July-August period of this year due mainly to the measure and the increases in the volume of import goods, the data showed. The customs wing of the NBR collected Tk 7,682 crore in the period, surpassing the collection target of Tk 7,602 crore set for the period.
Export earnings in the month of September slid 5.63% year-on-year to USD 2.24 billion, due to a slowdown in garment exports, according to data from Export Promotion Bureau. The earnings also missed the September target of USD2.73 billion by 18.06%, data showed. However, export earnings increased 4.12% to reach USD 8.08 billion in July-September, from the corresponding period of last year. But the quarterly target of USD8.95 billion was also missed by 9.69%, according to data.
Bangladesh’s export earnings from the United States and the United Kingdom, two top destinations for the country’s exports, declined in the first quarter of the current financial year (2016-17) due to a downward trend in the demand for readymade garment items in US and UK markets Export earnings in the July-September period of FY17 from the US, the single largest export destination for Bangladesh, fell by 10% to USD1.40 billion from USD 1.55 billion in the same period of FY16, according to the Export Promotion Bureau data. RMG export to the US market in the July-September period of FY17 fell by 12.04% to USD 1.26 billion from USD1.43 billion in the same period of FY16. Export to the UK, the third largest destination, declined by 2.47% to USD 843.78 million in the first quarter of FY17 from USD 867.60 million in the same period of FY16. RMG export to the UK in the first quarter of FY17 decreased by 2.23% to USD780.52 million from USD798.37 million in the same period of FY16.
Gas shortage has drastically cut down production in the country’s readymade garment sector, especially in the export-industry hubs in Savar, Ashulia, Gazipur and Konabari areas around the capital, businesspeople said. According to industry-insiders, per-day production in most of the factories operating in the key apparel-manufacturing belts has decreased by around 40% for want of sufficient gas supply for fuelling the factories. The RMG units have already brought the prevailing gas crunch to notice of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) for an immediate solution. Keeping the supply shortage of gas in view, the apparel apex body –BGMEA — Monday raised the issue to the energy ministry and sought necessary steps for a remedy. The apex body, in view of the exigency, suggested that the government cut supply to the gas-guzzling fertilizer factories. Fertilizer can be imported, if need be, the industry leader argued to substantiate their plea.
The government has decided afresh not to give new piped gas connections to captive power plants and suspended their load transfers for the fuel crunch, said officials. State-owned Petrobangla has already asked all of its subsidiary gas-marketing and-distribution companies to suspend new gas connections to these power plants. “We have stopped new gas connections to the captive power plants until further order to ensure that the energy is used by consumers having value-adding capacity in the productive sectors,” Petrobangla chairman Istiaque Ahmad told the FE. He said the captive-power-plant owners would not be able to relocate the gas-fired power plants as per the new government directives. Captive power plants are owned by private entrepreneurs who usually install such plants to ensure getting uninterrupted electricity for smooth industrial output. With the increase in the country’s overall electricity generation, the government now feels that the generation of electricity through new gas-fired captive power plants is no longer needed, a senior official of state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) said.
10.0 million Unregistered SIMs blocked in crackdown
The telecom industry lost more than 10.0 million subscribers in August alone after the regulator decided to deactivate connections that were not verified biometrically. The total number of active mobile connections stood at 118.4 million at the end of August, down from 128.9 million in July. The decline is nothing to be worried about as there was a huge duplication in the customer database earlier, said chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission. Of the deactivated SIMs, about 8.8 million had active internet connection — a development that will have a negative impact on mobile data usage. The tally of active mobile internet connections stood at 51.2 million at the close of August, down from previous month’s 60.1 million.
The planned auction to award license for Mobile Number Portability (MNP) operations is likely to be deferred until the end of December this year, officials of the Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) revealed on Monday. The auction, which was originally scheduled to be held on September 21, was later shifted to September 28. The telecom regulator later postponed the auction for an indefinite period as the government said much more time is needed to run an intelligence check on companies that have qualified for the auctioning process. BTRC officials now say they have received the intelligence report from the Ministry of Home Affairs which is now being examined by the telecom regulator.
Eastern Refinery Limited (ERL) new unit work stalled for fund crisis
The work of setting up second unit of the Eastern Refinery Limited (ERL), the only state-owned oil refinery in Bangladesh, has been disrupted due to lack of funds. The installation of the ERL unit-2 was scheduled to be completed by June 2016. But the work of the project worth BDT 167.3 billion is not progressing as financial assistance from foreign sources is still at negotiating stage. Once installed, the unit is expected to refine 4.5m tones of petroleum annually. The estimated project cost is BDT 167.3 billion, out of which, BDT 50.0 billion will be provided by the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) and the remaining BDT 117.3 billion is expected to come as project assistance. Presently, ERL refines 1.3m tons of crude oil annually through its capacity of 1.5m tones. The BPC annually imports nearly 5m tons of crude and refined oil at an average cost of BDT 500.0 billion. Technip, which installed the ERL’s first unit, was also given the task of designing the second unit.
Facebook has taken up special plans for countries like Bangladesh to help flourish its business in this region, said a senior official of the social media’s regional office in Singapore. In an interview with The Daily Star recently, Fergus O’Hare, director of Facebook creative shop for Asia-Pacific region, said they are developing content that easily matches the second generation phones mostly used in Bangladesh. “We are developing products that will be supported by the cheapest handsets, which will also be helpful for the marketing guys,” said O’Hare, while attending the third edition of Digital Marketing Summit held in Dhaka. O’Hare said, along with India and Bangladesh, this region is growing phenomenally with digital content and they are targeting the users who are active on their platform.
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