Important Business News Extracts – September 24, 2017
Six banks under BB scanner
The central bank has brought around half-a-dozen commercial banks under its close monitoring after it detected anomalies in their recent share market activities. As part of the move, the Bangladesh Bank (BB) has already sought explanation from the banks on activities along with exceeding their share market exposure limit, according to the market insiders. They also said the banks are now taking preparations to reply to the BB’s queries within the stipulated timeframe. Both public and private commercial banks are included in the central bank’s close monitoring list, according to the insiders. “Yes, the BB has sought some information on the share market activities from our bank,” a senior executive of a leading private commercial bank (PCB) told the FE Wednesday preferring anonymity. The private banker also said his bank will reply to the BB in time.
For the past five years, 65-year-old Nesar Uddin has been covering all of his daily expenses with the interest earned on his savings. On retiring from service in 2011, he had placed his pension in a bank as a Fixed Deposit Receipt (FDR). But when Nesar wanted to transfer his money into another FDR when its five-year term matured in May, he was shocked to discover the available interest rate had almost halved. “I went to the bank to open another FDR with my pension. In 2013, the bank gave me an interest rate of 8.5%, but now they are offering me less than 5%, which is not nearly enough for me to survive,” Nesar Uddin told the Dhaka Tribune. “People like me do not have enough options for savings. We usually put our money in a bank, rather than any other financial institutions.” Just like Nesar Uddin, a significant number of middle and lower-income people who are dependent on interest payments from banks are facing financial difficulties due to the ever-decreasing rates offered on bank deposits. According to the latest Bangladesh Bank report, the average interest rate on bank deposits in June 2013 was 8.54% but by June of this year, this had fallen to only 4.84%.
BASIC Bank’s new management managed to recover cash amounting to Tk 1,204 crore in the last three years but its overall financial condition continues to remain weak. As of August, half of the bank’s total loans of Tk 14,090 crore were ineffective against which it cannot make any income, according to a report it placed on Sunday before a parliamentary committee. Rather, the state-owned bank’s financial indicators are in the danger zone for the bad loans. Between 2010 and 2014, unbridled irregularities and corruption had an extremely negative impact on the overall activities of the bank; a grave deterioration of different financial indicators was visible.
Most directors of controversial board of directors of BASIC Bank led by former chairman Sheikh Abdul Hye Bacchu were got promoted to higher government positions although they failed to prevent misappropriations of over Tk 6,000 crore from the state-owned bank. Finance ministry officials said that two of the six public servants serving as directors to the bank during the period of loan scams from 2009 to 2014 had been promoted to secretary while the Anti-Corruption Commission failed to file any case against Abdul Hye. Shuvashish Bose, appointed to the BASIC’s board of directors while serving as export promotion bureau vice-chairman, was made secretary to textiles and jute ministry in January and commerce secretary in March.
A newly introduced pension system executed from July now faces an upsetting blow amid opposition from ‘influential’ employees to part payout at retirement, sources said. A government-approved rule on retirement provides that government employees will have to retain 50 per cent of their total pension and the remaining half they will enjoy on monthly basis. Before approval for the reform by the Prime Minister they had an option for withdrawing all retirement pension at one go or retaining 50 per cent for getting monthly payment. The finance division recently met on the matter, and a section of employees believed the government could revert to the previous position following the opposition buy a section of stakeholders. However, a top official at the finance division told the FE that they were yet to take a decision whether or not take a u-turn over the public pension system. But sources familiar with the developments told the FE that the government may leave out the section of employees who are vehemently opposing it.
Savers chase golden deer as GPO men pass on certificates sans bribe
Savers face harassment and hassles at the General Post Office (GPO) of Dhaka while purchasing the government’s savings instruments, according to savers and insiders. Without references or greasing the palms of officials and staffers, clients cannot get such certificates. They deliberately delay their works so that people suffer and are forced to give bribes, according to the victims. Talking to the FE, a large number of savers complained that they had to stand for a long time to purchase savings certificates at the GPO. Instead of receiving their applications, the staff members at the respective counters were seen busy with the people who gave bribes or went there through references. Some of them said although the Department of National Savings (DNS) supplies application forms of savings certificates free of cost for distribution among savers, a section of staffers at the post office is selling the forms, especially the Family Savings Certificate (FSC) because of its high demand.
Private jute-millers demanded a three-month moratorium on bank-loan-interest payment and higher cash subsidy for the industry as swaps for postponing jute-packaging of rice. The mill owners made the plea as they said it would help them recoup the losses they incur following recent government order relaxing mandatory use of jute bags for three months for the rice importers to cool overheated market of the staple. A press release said the leaders of Bangladesh Jute Mills Association (BJMA) expressed concern over such government decision as they dubbed it a “violation” of the Mandatory Jute Packaging Act. “Local jute industry will face major setback because of allowing plastic bags in importing rice,” the release quoted the association as saying. The millers said they are already facing a hard time due to the imposition of anti-dumping duty by India. The demand for traditional jute bags also declined worldwide. “So the overall condition of jute sector is not good.”
Citi has recently hosted over 220 clients at the bank’s Belt and Road Forum event in Beijing, underlining the bank’s commitment in supporting Chinese and global clients with the opportunities offered by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The day included overviews and updates from Citi’s team of senior executives from many of the 58 markets the bank covers across the Belt and Road. The BRI’s 65 markets account for close to 40 percent of global trade and 30 percent of GDP, the bank said in a statement yesterday. “It is home to more than 4.6 billion people, or over 60 percent of the world’s population.” Francisco Aristeguieta, CEO of Citi Asia-Pacific, who opened the conference said: “The BRI is a transformational global project that enables economic growth and progress.” “Citi is ideally positioned to be the partner of choice for our clients with unparalleled in country capabilities, local expertise and an unrivalled global network across the Belt and Road.” Sajedul Islam, director and acting Citi country officer for Bangladesh, said: “In line with the global initiative, Citi Bangladesh is also participating in this endeavour to bring local and global investors in one platform for deeper integration.”
Md. Arfan Ali, President & Managing Director of Bank Asia inaugurating a campaign
Md. Arfan Ali, President & Managing Director of Bank Asia inaugurating a campaign on Agent Banking Customer Acquisition ‘Grow & Gain’ by cutting a cake at a simple ceremony held at the Corporate Office of the Bank at Purana Paltan in the city Saturday. Deputy Managing Directors of the Bank Mian Quamrul Hasan Chowdhury and Mohammed Borhanuddin seen among, others.
A day- long BAMLCO Conference of Standard Bank Limited
A day- long BAMLCO Conference of Standard Bank Limited was held at the Training Institute of the Bank at Motijheel in the city Saturday. Deputy Governor of Bangladesh Bank Abu Hena Mohd. Razee was present as Chief Guest while Mamun-Ur-Rashid, Managing Director & CEO of SBL presided over the function.
Social Islami Bank buys into IDB’s real estate fund
Social Islami Bank is set to invest $2 million in a real estate-focused private equity fund managed by the Islamic Development Bank. Called the Awqaf Properties Investment Fund (APIF), the fund’s objective is to develop and invest in accordance with principles of Islamic shariah in Awqaf real estate property that is socially, economically and financially viable in member countries of IDB and Islamic communities in non-member countries. Awqaf real estate property is dedicated to charitable or Muslim religious purposes with no intention of the donor reclaiming the assets. Once donated, the property cannot be sold or transferred from one party to another. SIBL will buy 2 percent stakes of the fund, enough to give the local bank a seat at the table of the APIF board, according to a report of the Bangladesh Bank. The local bank will buy 200 shares of APIF for $10,000 each.
The government has taken an initiative to assess the economic impacts of tax benefits it extends to taxpayers, industries and businesses in the forms of tax holiday, exemption and concession to accelerate industrialisation, employment generation, attract foreign direct investment and promote export earnings as well as to boost overall economic growth in the country. Officials of the finance ministry said finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith had already requested the World Bank to carry out a study on tax benefits, known as tax expenditures, and their impacts on society and economy in the country. In addition, the National Board of Revenue has also taken an initiative to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of tax expenditures as it faces difficulties in designing tax policies in absence of data in the field. Currently, the revenue board has no data in this connection as it has never carried out any study on the issue. Till now, only an assessment on tax expenditures which is conducted by the Policy Research Unit of Bangladesh Bank is available in the country.
Ministry, WB at loggerheads over issue of monitoring
The ministry of education (MoE) and the World Bank (WB) are now at loggerheads over latter’s monitoring of the government’s US$18 billion education development programme planned for next five years. The trouble has surfaced as the WB wants to monitor the entire programme through its contribution to the programme is worth only $520 million, officials said Thursday. The MoE is set to take up the $18 billion ‘Secondary Education Development Programme’ for implementation over the next five years. Some development partners including the WB and the Asian Development Bank have already shown their interest in joining as co-financers with the government for the biggest ever education programme of the country, ministry officials said. A senior MoE official said the Washington-based lender has assured the government of providing $520 million fund for the programme. Besides, the ADB is likely to join the programme that will be largely financed by the government.
WB suggests technological progress in manufacturing
The World Bank (WB) has said Bangladesh’s low wages is not sufficient to be competitive in the global trade, rather it needs technological improvements in the manufacturing sector. The global lender has suggested improvement of the country’s competitive environment for strengthening its footprint in the global trade arena. WB expressed such opinions in a report – “Trouble in the Making? The Future of Manufacturing-Led Development” – published at its Washington headquarters on Thursday. According to WB, Bangladesh’s connectedness, capabilities and competitiveness are not so well, like some of its competitor countries including India, Vietnam and China. In the logistic performance index, Bangladesh has acquired 2.66 points out of 5.0, while in the service trade restriction index 35 points out of 100, and in the doing business index 40.8 out of 100.
The government’s recent move to promote LNG (liquefied natural gas)-based power generation is likely to bring about fresh change in the final draft of the Power System Master Plan (PSMP) 2016, officials said. The Power Cell, a technical wing of Power Division, has prepared the PSMP through two Japanese consulting firms under the funding of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and submitted it to the government, reports UNB. The latest PSMP outlined 57,000 MW power generation by 2041, designing 35 per cent electricity from coal, 35 per cent from gas and remaining 30 per cent from other sources including nuclear and renewables. On the basis of the PSMP 2016, the government is now implementing a total of eight coal-fired power plants, which would generate 9,700 MW power in the next five-six years, officials said. But the recent fall in liquid fuel price on the international market, which resulted in the availability of LNG at a relatively cheap price, has prompted the government to bring changes in its plan, said the officials.
Bangladesh is set to ink a deal with Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in November to expand trade and commerce including duty-free market access to Russia and tap export potential in East European markets, officials said. A high-powered delegation of Eurasian Economic Commission (EAEC) will visit Bangladesh from November 15-19 in order to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Bangladesh and EEU member states. The EEU comprises five northern Eurasian countries such as Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. These nations have common customs border and a single market of 183 million people and gross domestic product of over US$ 4.0 trillion. The ministry of commerce (MoC) has recently finalised the draft of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard which earlier the EEU had forwarded to Bangladesh embassy in Moscow, the officials added. A senior trade official told the FE that after finalizing the MoU, it was sent again to the EEU through the foreign ministry for their final look.
No impact on retail rice prices despite a fall in wholesale prices
Though prices of coarse and fine rice have fallen by up to Tk3 per kg in wholesale markets, retail markets have yet to see a decrease in the prices. The wholesale price of rice per kg is Tk60, while it is sold at Tk66-Tk67 in retail markets. Retailers say rice bought at higher prices cannot be sold at lower prices. They, however, added that seven more days would be needed for retail prices to come down. During a visit to different rice markets in Kawran Bazar and Mohammadpur areas in Dhaka on Saturday, this correspondent found that rice price has fallen by Tk100-150 per sack (50kg). Traders claimed they were incurring a loss of Tk1 against 50kg of rice due to the fall in wholesale prices. Md Abu Osman and Md Bacchu Miah, two rice sellers in Kawran Bazar, said a sack containing 50kg rice is sold at Tk2,980 at the warehouse with Tk30 as transportation and miscellaneous costs included. Meanwhile, the price in wholesale markets is Tk3,000, that is, a wholesaler sells rice at Tk60 per kg and a retailer sells it at Tk63-Tk65. On the other hand, the price of coarse rice has fallen by Tk250 per sack in wholesale markets. A few days back, the price of a sack of rice was Tk2,650. Now it has come down to Tk2,440, that is, coarse rice is sold at Tk49 per kg in wholesale markets. But retailers sell it at Tk52-Tk53.
Officials of Benapole and Petrapole ports yesterday decided to expedite paperwork to ensure that at least 700 trucks carrying exports from the neighbouring country enter Bangladesh daily. The aim is to get across at least 200 trucks carrying perishable goods, including rice, 400 general goods and 100 truck chassis. The decision was taken at a bilateral meeting of customs, police and border guards officials of the two countries at the Petrapole camp of India’s Border Security Force, sources said.
Rangs Group, one of the leading business conglomerates in Bangladesh, opened a vehicle assembly plant in Sonargaon on Friday to tap the fast-growing local market. The facility sprawling over 40 acres of land in Sonakhali under Sonargaon upazila of Narayanganj will initially assemble pick-ups and human haulers with completely knockdown (CKD) kits from Indian multinational car manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader inaugurated the plant, which has the capacity to produce more than 2,000 vehicles per year.
Major Currency Exchange Rate Movement in Last Seven Days
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