Sunday, August 23, 2009

Larsen and Toubro to set up commercial banks

The financial services arm of construction and engineering major Larsen and Toubro (L&T) is planning to set up a commercial bank as part of its efforts to have a presence in the entire gamut of financial services in the country.

L&T Finance, which already holds 4.69 percent in City Union Bank, said here Thursday that there were related advantages of starting a bank especially to provide services to corporate partners.

Apart from L&T Finance, the group has floated another non-banking finance company (NBFC), L&T Infrastructure Finance, as well as incorporating a general insurance company, L&T General Insurance.

"Our long-term vision is to be present in the entire gamut of financial services including asset management, general and life insurance and bank. Our vision is to be a wholesome financial services player but no time frame has been fixed to achieve that," said Larsen and Toubro's executive vice president for financial services N. Sivaraman.

Various options will be looked at -- going alone, partnering another company or acquisition -- before a decision is taken, Sivaraman told reporters.

However, Larsen and Toubro's first expansion move in the financial services field will be in the general insurance sector through its investment arm L&T Capital Holdings.

"We don't find a need for a foreign partner for funds. For assessment of risks, it is actually based on local experience. A foreign partner brings in expertise in pricing of the risk. We can do that on our own," Sivaraman said.

According to him, though there are talks about the Indian general insurance sector moving towards consolidation, buying out the stakes of existing promoters did not enthuse Larsen and Toubro.

"The foreign promoters of Indian general insurance companies are here for the long run. Further, an existing company may come with a baggage which we do not want."

The non-life insurance company is expected to start business in 2010.

About floating a bank, Sivaraman said: "There are relative advantages of having an NBFC and a bank."

"There are two agendas for holding a stake in a bank. The first one is to have a share in the business. The second is the availability of banking services to our trade partners in opening letters of credit and other banking products."

The lending portfolio of Larsen and Toubro's two NBFCs at the end of last fiscal stood at around Rs.7,500 crore, which is expected to grow this year.

L&T Finance will also raise Rs.1,000 crore through issue of non-convertible debentures for business deployment.

Agencies

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