India’s second biggest bank, ICICI Bank Ltd is looking for foreign expansion by opening branches in Australia, South Africa and Mauritius. The largest private sector lender is also looking to open a full-fledged branch in China, where it already has a representative office, managing director and CEO, Chanda Kochhar said during the bank’s 19th annual general meeting (AGM) here. “Under the bank’s foreign expansion plans, we will open branches in Australia, South Africa and Mauritius. We have sought Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s clearance and the same is awaited,” said Kochhar addressing the shareholders in Vadodara on Monday. “We already have a representative office in China, where we will open a full-fledged branch,” she said. As on March 31, ICICI Bank had the largest number of foreign branches, 10, among private sector banks in India. The bank also has three subsidiaries and eight representative offices located in different countries, RBI data showed. Commenting on the domestic branch network, Kochhar maintained bank will expand its branch presence in the non-banked areas of the country. “We will open 350 new branches in India. About 200 of these will be in non-banked areas. The pace of branch network expansion will be much faster over the next three years,” said managing director and chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar at its 19th annual general meeting here. She said they’d also applied to the Reserve Bank of India for permission to open branches in Australia, South Africa and Mauritius. And, she said, they wished to upgrade the representative office in China to a full branch.
As on March 31, ICICI had 10 branches abroad (the largest among private sector banks in India), three subsidiaries and eight representative offices in different countries. To a shareholder’s query on the status of the investigation into the money laundering charges made after the ‘sting’ operation by web portal Cobrapost, she said: “We did three-layered investigations. One was an internal inquiry, the second was done by Deloitte, an external agency we appointed, and the third by RBI. From these investigations we found there has been no instance of money laundering in ICICI Bank.” On the economic situation and power sector issues, she said exposure to the latter was not a concern. “Our exposure to the power sector is less than seven per cent of our total exposure, and over half of it is to companies already operational and generating cash flows,” she explained. Adding: “While some of the projects, in the current environment, may face certain delays in cash flows but in the country as a whole, there is huge requirement of power. As each and every project starts operating and get their raw material, these (would be) very good assets in the long run.” On the rupee’s volatility, Kochhar said it would not hamper the bank’s plans to raise ?50 billion ($510 million) by selling bonds to institutional investors in Japan. “Even in the most volatile conditions, we have raised funds from the Chinese markets. We always look for a window of opportunity, where liquidity is available at the appropriate cost. We go ahead and raise those funds.” A week before, ICICI had raised money in Chinese yuan and in the past year, raised funds in both US and Singapore dollars and Swiss francs. ICICI, the country’s largest bank in the private sector, plans more expansion at home and abroad. Elevate Kochhar to vice-chair: Shareholders While shareholders of ICICI Bank showered praises on the management for successfully withstanding critical economic situation and yet announce healthy results, some demanded elevation for Chanda Kochhar to vice-chair of the bank. Chairman Kamath, however, did not respond to the request nor did he deny the possibility of the elevation. Lender promises Rs 5 crore for Uttarakhand ICICI Bank on Monday said every employee would contribute a day’s salary towards a relief fund for those affected in the Uttarakhand floods. “The bank will match that amount and the total fund will not be less than Rs 5 crore,” said Chanda Kochhar, managing director, at the annual general meeting in Vadodara. The AGM also observed a one-minute silence for those who lost their lives in these floods.