RETAIL BANKING | Cesar Tordesillas, India

Richest Pakistani eyes foray in Indian banking

Mian Mohammad Mansha is keen about providing banking services in India.

Pakistan's richest man and chairman of the $5-billion Nishat Group said that the State Bank of Pakistan is examining a proposal from his MCB Bank to open at least three branches in Delhi, Mumbai and Amritsar.

The MCB Bank is one of the largest private sector banks in Pakistan with over 1,130 branches and 4.5 million customers. The Nishat Group, which is Pakistan's largest business conglomerate, has interests in banking, textiles, insurance, cement and power.

"We are very keen on opening branches in India and have applied to our central bank for clearances," said Mansha. "As soon as the State Bank of Pakistan okays our application, it would refer it to the Reserve Bank of India for approval."

Mansha said he sees no difficulties in meeting the stiff eligibility norms for banks in India. "We are aware of the capital adequacy requirements and other eligibility criteria for Indian operations and won't have any problems in complying with them," he said.

The MCB Bank is the first Pakistani lender to formally apply for an Indian banking permit after officials from the central banks of the two countries met this April to discuss modalities for cross-border banking operations. According to Mansha, two of Pakistan's largest private commercial banks - the United Bank and the Habib Bank - are also considering forays into India.

Allowing banks to launch operations across the border is part of a larger strategy to improve bilateral trade ties by making transactions easier for exporters.

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