ICICI Bank looks to acquire Karnataka Bank

The country’s largest private sector bank,ICICI Bank,is learnt to have submitted a formal proposal to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to acquire Karnataka Bank,an old and listed private sector bank with a nationwide presence and over 500 branches.

Written by P Vaidyanathan Iyer | Mumbai | Updated: April 17, 2014 5:58 pm

The country’s largest private sector bank,ICICI Bank,is learnt to have submitted a formal proposal to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to acquire Karnataka Bank,an old and listed private sector bank with a nationwide presence and over 500 branches. In May 2010,ICICI Bank had acquired Bank of Rajasthan,another old bank.

According to sources close to the development,Kotak Bank,one of the new private sector banks,too had evinced interest in the 88-year old Karnataka Bank,but it is not clear if it has approached the banking regulator with a formal proposal. A possible acquisition of the bank has,in fact,been talked about for almost two years now.

RBI did not respond to a detailed questionnaire mailed to it earlier in the day. To an e-mail sent on Friday evening,an ICICI Bank spokesperson replied on Monday: “ICICI Bank does not comment on market speculations.”

A spokesperson for Kotak Mahindra Group said,“We deny the rumour.” As on September 30,2012,Kotak Mahindra Investments Ltd held 3.37 per cent in the bank.

When contacted,Karnataka Bank managing director and chief executive officer P Jayarama Bhat said,“This is false news.” The bank’s financials and client base are good. “Last year,we grew 20 per cent. This year,we expect a 25-30 per cent growth,” he said.

The bank’s total business crossed the Rs 50,000-crore mark in 2011-12 and its net profit grew 20.26 per cent to Rs 246.07 crore. Its capital adequacy ratio stood at 12.84 per cent,and its gross NPAs were 3.27 per cent of total advances.

Karnataka Bank’s shares have jumped around 40 per cent in the last month. The stock which was quoting at Rs 86.55 on September 17 this year zoomed to Rs 120.80 on the BSE on Monday.

The rise in prices has been accompanied by higher volumes in the counter. The stock which normally attracts a daily volume of Rs 3-6 crore witnessed a volume of Rs 17.7 crore on October 9,Rs 13.8 crore on October 10,Rs 9.88 crore on October 11,Rs 31.32 crore on October 12 and Rs 11.23 crore on October 15.

Sources in the RBI said the regulator’s permission is necessary before a bank makes an acquisition bid for another bank. Sources close to the development said ICICI Bank has experience in successfully managing transitions,citing the acquisition of Bank of Rajasthan. “This will be taken on board while the regulator considers the proposal,” the source said.

ICICI Bank’s total business is more than ten times that of Karnataka Bank.

Another source said there have been some concerns regarding Karnataka Bank’s “aggressive treasury operations”. Jayarama Bhat,however,said there were no concerns. “There have been no letters,no enquiries from the RBI. Ours is an integrated treasury — not aggressive like those of certain new generation banks,” he said. The bank has recently engaged consulting firm KPMG for a business process reengineering exercise.

While foreign institutional investors (FIIs) hold 14.36 per cent in Karnataka Bank,domestic institutions hold 4.59 per cent. Non-institutions account for four-fifth of the shareholding with body corporates holding 21.52 per cent. Shareholders with over 1 per cent stake in the company include Religare Finvest (3.84 per cent),Macquarie Bank (2.85 per cent),LIC (2.68 per cent),HSBC Mauritius (1.52 per cent),Bajaj Holdings (1.4 per cent) and Morgan Stanley Asia (1.14 per cent).

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First Published on: October 16, 2012 1:52 am
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