Meeting MPS Norms: 5 PSU Banks to Reduce Govt Holding

The Indian government is accelerating its efforts to bring public sector banks under the purview of SEBI’s minimum public shareholding norms. This regulatory requirement mandates that all listed companies maintain at least 25% public shareholding. While four PSBs – State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda, and Bank of India – achieved compliance by March 2023, five others are facing a tight deadline – August 2024 – to meet the MPS threshold.

The Five PSBs in Focus and Their Current Standing

Financial Services Secretary Vivek Joshi revealed that Bank of Maharashtra (86.46%), Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) (96.38%), UCO Bank (95.39%), Central Bank of India (93.08%), and Punjab & Sind Bank (98.25%) currently have the highest government holding. These banks, with a combined government ownership exceeding 470%, are actively formulating strategies to significantly reduce government stake and increase public participation by August 2024.

Exploring Options for Stake Dilution: FPOs, QIPs, and Strategic Disinvestment

The PSBs have a limited window to achieve a substantial reduction in government holding. This can be accomplished through various methods, including:

  • Follow-on Public Offerings (FPOs): Issuing new shares to the public through an FPO is a common approach for increasing public float. This strategy can raise fresh capital for the banks in the range of Rs. 10,000 crore to Rs. 20,000 crore each, based on their current market capitalization, while diluting government ownership.
  • Qualified Institutional Placements (QIPs): Selling shares to institutional investors like mutual funds and foreign institutional investors (FIIs) through QIPs is another viable option. This method can bring in a larger pool of investors without diluting the retail investor base significantly.

The government may also consider strategic disinvestment, where a portion of the government’s stake is sold to a private entity. This approach has been successfully used in the past for PSUs in other sectors and could be an option for specific PSBs depending on their strategic fit.

Potential Benefits of Meeting MPS Norms

Complying with the MPS norms carries several advantages for both the PSBs and the broader financial sector:

  • Enhanced Market Liquidity: Increased public shareholding, potentially exceeding 20% for each bank, can improve the liquidity of the PSBs’ shares, making them more attractive to investors. This can lead to a more stable share price and easier access to capital.
  • Improved Corporate Governance: The presence of a larger public shareholder base can encourage greater transparency and accountability within the PSBs. This can strengthen investor confidence and improve the overall governance framework.
  • Attracting Foreign Investment: Increased public float can make PSBs more appealing to foreign investors, leading to a potential inflow of foreign capital exceeding billions of dollars. This can contribute to the growth and development of the Indian banking sector.

The Road Ahead

The upcoming months will be crucial for these five PSBs as they strive to meet the MPS deadline. The chosen method of stake dilution, its execution, and the targeted level of public participation will be closely monitored by the market. If successful, this initiative can usher in a new era of transparency, market participation, and potentially a significant capital infusion for these public sector banks.

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