Important Business News Extracts – October 15, 2017
Three-fourth bankers favor merger of banks: Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) study
Some 72.0% bankers are in favor of reducing the number of banks in Bangladesh through merger or acquisition as their number is high given the size of the economy, according to a survey. About 88.0% of the respondents said mergers, acquisitions or takeovers may be executed to trim the number of banks, particularly the weak ones, found the survey of the Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM). The survey, which was conducted through interviews, showed 11% respondents are okay with the existing number of banks, while 17% declined to make comments. Currently, 57 banks are operating in the market. Nine banks were given license in 2013. The report said aggressive lending by banks in the competitive market has caused pileup of bad loans. As of June this year, total default loan stood at BDT 633.7 billion, accounting for 10.06% of the total loan outstanding. State-owned banks accounted for one-third of the total sour loans.
The National Board of Revenue has asked the country’s commercial banks to comply with the responsive declaration procedures in opening letter of credit and approving other import-related documents for preventing tax evasion and trade-based money laundering. Import consignments with incomplete information in the LC documents will face 100 per cent physical inspection and customs commissioners will have the authority to summon the LC issuing bank officials to be present during the inspection. The customs wing of the NBR on Wednesday issued a set of instructions for the banks to ensure scrutiny of the import documents and requested the Bangladesh Bank governor to inform the banks about the NBR decisions. Responsive declaration of goods will not only prevent duty evasion and trade-based money laundering but also expedite valuation process thus facilitate international trade, customs officials told New Age on October 12. Complying with the responsive declaration procedures will also prevent misdeclaration — under invoicing and over invoicing — by importers, they said.
Revenue authorities may launch cent-percent physical inspection of the products in case of incomplete information in any suspect letter of credit (LC) or invoice. Officials said such full-scale Customs probe is conceived as part of government measures for checking alleged trade-based money laundering and duty- dodging. The decision has been taken in a recent meeting of the National Board of Revenue that tossed effective means of thwarting these twin financial crimes. Customs policy member Md Lutfor Rahman chaired the meeting, attended by officials of both the Customs and the commercial banks. The National Board of Revenue (NBR) at the meeting urged the banks to follow a set of rules for checking trade-based both-way money laundering through export and import. In the LC or LC Authorization, the commercial banks have to furnish details of products: their names, HS code, generic names, brand names, commercial names, chemical names, model, art, part number and so. The banks will have to scrutinise the information before invoice certification, the meeting sources said. The meeting addressed the causes of money laundering and duty- dodging that importers or exporters could do through furnishing incomplete information in LC, invoice, packing list of import-export products.
First Security Islami Bank’s plan to purchase floor space in Italy for its exchange house has collapsed after the central bank turned down its request to transfer funds. The bank applied to the Bangladesh Bank in May to purchase about 972 square feet floor space in Rome for €3.6 lakh (equivalent to Tk 3.20 crore). After assessing the proposal, the BB on September 20 in a letter told the 18-year-old bank that it would not be a good business move on its part as its income from sending in remittance is on the wane. In fiscal 2016-17, $511 million of remittance flew in to the country from Italy, up 45.58 percent year-on-year, according to data from the central bank. First Security channelled only 6.80 percent of the sum, down 1.44 percentage points from a year earlier. As per its application to the BB, the bank has to count €24,552 as rent every year to operate its exchange house in the Italian capital. The rent would come down to €15,552 per year if it is able to purchase the floor space.
Ibrahim Khaled: Bankers should protest the new Bank Company Act
Bankers should speak out against the proposed changes to the Banking Company Act 1991 which are set to receive parliamentary approval soon, the former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank said yesterday. The amendments tabled by the Finance Ministry in the new Bank Company Act were passed by the cabinet on May 8 and include increasing the maximum tenure of the board of directors of private banks from six years to nine years, and allowing four members of a family to sit on a board instead of two. “Because of interference by directors, banks have already been transformed into a ‘grocery shop’ for friends and family members,” former deputy governor Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled said. “If the new law is enacted, then bankers would not be able to work at all. We as citizens are going to have to raise our voices against the amendment to the law and you people (bankers) should protest from your professional position.” The former deputy governor was addressing a research workshop on ‘Exploring Merger and Acquisition in the Context of the Banking Sector of Bangladesh,’ organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) at its headquarters in Dhaka.
Eminent economist Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud Thursday said that despite exponential growth of non-farm activities in rural economy, there is still a problem of scaling up small and medium enterprises (SMEs) due to lack of access to finance. Non-farm activities in rural areas by the farmers have increased 7-10 per cent over the past 26 years as it was reflected in the economic census of 2013, he said, addressing a workshop in the capital as a special guest. He also pointed out that those who identify themselves as real farmers were actually involved in multiple sources of income or multiple occupations, contributing to the country’s economy. “Many small trading and business establishments have been done with the help of microcredit. But scaling up of these small units is a problem, creating a missing middle,” he added. Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal was present as the chief guest of the workshop titled “Draft Questionnaire on Statistical Business Register” held at Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) auditorium.
Most companies look unaware of business continuity planning
Country’s companies, small or large alike, looked blissfully unaware of business-continuity planning to survive any calamity though recent trends leave them susceptible to a variety of existing and emerging risks. Latest studies and a spot survey drew such conclusion about state of disaster-preparedness of the businesses and business bodies. Business continuity planning (BCP) is the creation of a strategy that recognises the threats and risks facing a company in the event of a disaster and suggests measures to protect its personnel and assets and help continue operations. The BCP involves defining potential risks, determining how those risks may affect operations, implementing safeguards and procedures designed to mitigate those risks, testing those procedures to ensure that they work, and periodically reviewing the process to make sure that it is up to date. Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) in the past week unveiled a study as regards addressing disaster risks by banks: Bangladesh perspective. It also showed that the banking sector had no such effective business continuity or recovery plans. This correspondent also conducted a similar survey on 30 leading firms to ascertain whether they have such planning or not. Save some multinational companies, this concept was hardly found in existence in any of the business corporations.
Grameen Bank seeks AG’s help regarding board meeting
Nobel Prize-winning microcredit lender Grameen Bank has written to Attorney General Mahbubey Alam to seek his opinion about holding board meetings with its three government-appointed directors. Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune yesterday, Mahbubey Alam confirmed that he had received a letter from the bank regarding the matter. The bank has been operating without calling any board meeting in the last 30 months. On September 24, Financial Institutions Division sent a letter to the bank, asking it to hold a board meeting with its three directors. “According to a decision taken in a meeting at the residence of Finance Minister AMA Muhith, the Grameen Bank will seek opinion from the attorney general about holding meetings with its directors,” reads the letter signed by FID Deputy Secretary Md Motiar Rahman. The board of Grameen Bank is a 12-member body comprising three government-appointed directors and nine borrower-directors selected from the bank’s shareholders and borrowers.
The government has appointed retired District Session Judge Khondakar Kamaluzzaman as commissioner to the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission. Kamaluzzaman’s appointment came after the tenure of BSEC commissioner Abdus Salam Sikder ended. Salam’s tenure ended at the beginning of this year and since then the position remained vacant. Kamaluzzaman joined the commission on Thursday following a circular issued by the finance ministry in this regard. Kamaluzzaman completed his graduation and post-graduation from law department of Dhaka University. After that he joined Bangladesh Judiciary Services.
Industrial park for pharma ingredients finally taking shape
The Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) industrial park is finally taking shape nearly a decade after the scheme was taken up with the view to facilitating a steady supply of raw materials of drugs to reduce import dependency. Recently, the developer of the park, Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation, has asked the 27 pharmaceutical companies — which include Square, Incepta, Globe, Opsonin, Beximco and Eskayef Bangladesh — to complete all procedures and take possession of the 41 plots allotted to them in August. “We will complete all procedures to take possession by this month,” said SM Shafiuzzaman, secretary general of the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries. The companies will start construction of their plants once taking handover of the plots.
Textile chemical sector catches eye of foreign firms
The textile chemical and dye market of Bangladesh is edging towards $1 billion on the back of rising garment exports, according to industry insiders. This has caught the eyes of many foreign companies, who now mull over expanding their geographical footprint to Bangladesh. One such company is Huntsman Textile Effects, a concern of the globally renowned US-based chemical and dye company Huntsman. The company is currently working with nearly 200 textile and dye factories in Bangladesh and logging in 16 percent year-on-year sales growth, according to its Vice-president Chuck Hirsch. Hirsch was in Dhaka this week to sign agreement with a textile company. Huntsman sells chemicals and also consultation as after sales services.
Bangladesh will have to pay higher interest rates for securing loans from the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank as the country will be classified as an ‘IDA gap’ country by the global lender from the next year. The World Bank Country Director Qimiao Fan has recently informed Bangladesh about this development and requested the government to make necessary preparations, reports UNB. In a recent letter sent to Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Fan said due to Bangladesh’s improved economic performance, its GNI per capita exceeded the IDA operational threshold for two consecutive years-in fiscal years 2017 and 2018.
The deal signed between Beijing and Dhaka for setting up a dedicated economic zone in Chittagong during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh last year is yet to see any progress. Some 26 deals were signed during Xi’s visit to Dhaka in October last year with a view to boosting trade and investment between the two countries. Of the deals, there has been movement on only one-fourth of them. The joint venture agreement for Chinese economic and industrial zone is one of the 13 deals that saw hardly any progress in the last one year.
The earnings of many listed companies of the textile sector declined in the last fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2017. The companies’ dividends recommended for the last financial year have also declined. Of nine companies of textile sector which recommended dividend last week, eight witnessed fall in earnings for the same time. Abdus Salam Murshedy, Managing Director of Envoy Group, said the companies’ earnings indicate the sluggish growth of textile sector. “The sales rates of products have declined amid competitive world market. Secondly, the utility bills of the factories have also increased significantly, leaving impact on earnings,” Murshedy said. He also said the production capacities of many factories have declined amid their failure to fulfill requirements of Accord and Alliance. In the last fiscal year, the country’s export earnings from the apparel industry observed the lowest growth of 0.20 per cent to $28.15 billion in the last one and a half decades.
PRAN to participate at Anuga 2017 with $5m export packages
PRAN is sending export packages worth $5m at Anuga-2017, an international food and beverage exhibition. PRAN has received the orders from the importers of 35 countries. The fair will take place at Cologne, Germany, on October 5, 2019. It will be the 14th time for PRAN Group to participate in the fair.
The industry should concentrate more on quality digital contents as the market of this segment is booming to cater for the increasing number of smart customers, analysts said yesterday. Digital marketing is witnessing a lot of changes in Bangladesh of late, said Asif Iqbal, executive director for marketing at the Meghna Group of Industries. “Here we need to create more and more innovative products (contents) to bring smart customers on board.” The traditional market platform and contents will not work in this digital era, he added. The growth of Bangladesh’s digital market is much higher than that of India and most Asian countries, he said. “Here we need to bring new innovations to maintain this growth.” Iqbal also urged the government to set a policy for digital contents so the agencies which create the contents get proper revenues for their produce. His comments came at the opening of the fourth Digital Marketing Summit at the Le Meridien Dhaka hotel.
Digital payments to help Dhaka save $1.5b a year: study
Use of digital payments can help Dhaka save $1.5 billion annually, according to a report recently released by Visa, the global leader in digital payments technology. The report estimated that relying more on electronic payments, such as cards and mobile payments, could yield a net benefit of up to $470 billion per year across the 100 cities studied – roughly, equivalent to 3 percent of the average gross domestic product (GDP) of these cities. The study—Cashless cities: realising the benefits of digital payments—was conducted by Roubini Thought Lab and commissioned by Visa. It examined the economic impact of increasing the use of digital payments in 100 major cities around the world, including Dhaka. Some 3,000 consumers and 900 businesses have been surveyed in 2016 to examine the use, acceptance and cost-benefit impact of physical and digital money.
According to a new study, conducted by economics research firm Roubini ThoughtLab and commissioned by US multinational global payments technology company Visa, increasing the use of digital payment facilities in 100 cities that include Dhaka could save $470 billion annually across all of them. The findings of the study, titled “Cashless Cities: Realising the Benefits of Digital Payments,” were announced through a Visa press release issued on Thursday. “Consumers across the 100 cities could achieve nearly US$28 billion per year in estimated direct net benefits. This impact would be derived from factors including up to 3.2 billion hours in time savings conducting banking, retail and transit transactions, in addition to a reduction in cash-related crime,” the press release read. The press release further said that businesses across the 100 cities could achieve even higher direct benefits, amounting to $312 billion per year. This includes $3.1 billion hours in time savings when processing incoming and outgoing payments. “Governments across the 100 cities could achieve nearly US$130 billion per year in estimated direct benefits. This impact would be derived from factors including increased tax revenues, increased economic growth, cost savings from administrative efficiencies and lower criminal justice costs due to reduced cash-related crime,” it added. The study was conducted by surveying 3000 consumers and 900 businesses across Tokyo, Chicago, Stockholm, Sao Paolo, Bangkok and Lagos. Each of the cities were taken to represent different levels of digital payment maturity, and the data was then extrapolated to include 94 cities around the world.
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