Days after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) set March 2017 as the deadline for lenders for cleaning up balance-sheets, top bankers on Monday met Governor Raghuram Rajan to discuss a way out of the asset quality woes.
"During the meeting, the RBI and the bankers discussed various issues, including the asset quality and the way forward for improving the quality of banks' balance-sheets. The discussions will continue," the RBI said in a statement.
All bankers, including SBI's Arundhati Bhattacharya, ICICI Bank's Chanda Kochhar, Axis Bank's Shikha Sharma and Punjab National Bank's Usha Ananthasubramanian, were tight-lipped about the meeting's outcome, and declined to speak on discussions to the waiting reporters outside the RBI headquarters here.
"It was an absolute general discussion with open mind on both sides," state-run Union Bank of India's chief, Arun Tiwari, told reporters. Others declined to speak.
The RBI statement said Mr Rajan was accompanied by his deputies S S Mundra and R Gandhi, and officials from banking regulation and supervision departments.
The gathering assumes significance as it comes days after Mr Rajan announced a March 2017 deadline for the banks to clean up their balance-sheets plagued by high incidence of bad assets. The restructured and the bad assets combined together have gone over 13 per cent.
Announcing the deadline earlier this month, Mr Rajan had said bankers had been given lot of leeway like the SDR scheme to take over majority ownership in defaulting companies and the 5/25 scheme of debt rescheduling to get their act together.
Other bankers who attended the meet included the chiefs of Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Syndicate Bank, IDBI, United Bank of India and Andhra Bank.
It can be noted that the state-run banks are the ones which have been hurt by asset quality woes.
The meet comes two days ahead of the much-awaited US Fed meeting, which is expected to increase the record low interest rates in the world's largest economy. If done so, this may lead to volatility in the Indian market apart from causing flight of capital.
The conclave also assumes significance as the RBI, in one of the rare occasions, missed its deadline by almost a fortnight to come up with the final guidelines on base rate calculation based on marginal cost of funding.
Mr Rajan had on December 1 said he would issue the final norms by the end of the first week of the month.
Later, SBI chief Ms Bhattacharya said, "Basically, the discussion was on what steps should be taken by banks, what will be the economy going forward, and what steps need to be taken by banks to face those challenges."
She was talking to reporters on Monday evening after launching a cyber safety awareness campaign launched along with Mumbai Police.
Despite repeated requests, she declined to offer more details but said the meeting with the RBI is not over and that the discussions will continue.