BoB, Dena, Vijaya Bank lined up for amalgamation

Dena Bank, Vijaya Bank and Bank of Baroda to be merged to form India's third largest bank

The government plans to merge three state-run banks, Bank of Baroda, Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank, the financial services secretary said on Monday, as part of efforts to clean up the country's banking system.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the government had been careful in not merging weak banks. The other members of the panel include Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

India's decision to merge the three banks will first need to be approved by each of their board of directors, Jaitley said, adding that the government will then prepare an amalgamation scheme.

Jaitley said the merger would create a sustainable mega-bank which would be third largest in the country. The proposed merger follows a similar move by the government in February a year ago when it merged State Bank of India (SBI) with its five subsidiary banks, helping the country's largest lender by assets increase its scale and cut expenses through synergies.

The government is now looking to offload its majority stake in IDBI Bank to Life Insurance Corp. of India.

"The envisaged amalgamation will be the first-ever three-way consolidation of banks in India, with a combined business of Rs 14.82 lakh crore, making it India's third largest bank", an official statement said. "When you make a merger, you want to make merged entity stronger".

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"But a lot will depend on the management of the larger entity and what the synergies will be", he said. "Of course, we see the all India expanse and so on..."

He added that the government will now await the response of the banks on the proposal. "Banks should be made strong and it will depend on process", he said.

Industry body Ficci Monday termed the government's decision to merge three state-owned banks as a progressive move, noting that it signifies the government's commitment to strengthen the banking sector. "The amalgamation will help improve operational efficiency and customer services".

While the employees interest will be protected, brand equity will be preserved, he said. "Many banks were in a fragile condition". The nature of lending was as if there is no tomorrow. The banks have to be emptied before 2014. "That took a toll on the economy".

"It was only after 2015 that the real picture was known and the government and the RBI started taking concrete steps". "The UPA had swept the NPAs under the carpet, he said. NPAs worth 8.5 lakh crore were shown to be 2 lakh crore", the minister alleged.

Asked about the increasing fuel prices coupled with declining value of rupee against the dollar, Mr Jaitley said, "These are impacts of a very significant global phenomenon that are going on".

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