Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Troubled banks in Nepal

A day after liquidating Nepal Development Bank (NDB), of which I argued for immediate liquidation, it has been know that another bank (I suspect there are many such low performing banks who play with balance sheet) is in trouble. World Merchant Banking and Finance Limited, after a year in operation, loaned Rs 9 million to a contracting company without properly assessing the loan-seeker’s ability to pay back the loan. Being unable to recover loans and to avert a negative balance sheet, it created a fictitious story-- that it recovered loan from the company and lent it to someone else.

When all this happened, the central bank was completely kept in dark by the incompetent management of the bank. Okay, it is partly the central bank’s fault to not tap on this shady practice for over five years.

This illegal practice of transferring the ´troubled´ loan into a new person´s name continued for five years till 2007, when borrowers started asking the finance company to release some of the land held as collateral by the finance company. "To coax the management the borrowers paid back Rs 700,000 of the loan amount. But we did not agree," said the source. Then subsequently, the borrowers started claiming they did not owe any money to the finance company and it had failed to deduct the installment amount that borrowers had paid over the years, which, the finance company calls a "total lie." "We challenge the borrowers to show cash receipt if they had truly repaid the loan amount," said the source.

Then the matter went to the police and in January 2008, it asked the finance company to submit all the documents involved in the loan transaction. Then the central bank became wary of malpractices going in the financial institution and in April 2008 it warned World Merchant to discontinue the illegal practice of transferring liability of loan amount to new persons.

And, a persistent problem of moral hazard because of the institutionally (and human resource wise) deficient and inefficient central bank.

On June 14 this year, Binit Mani Upadhyaya, CEO of the finance company, was arrested after borrowers lodged a complaint at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority. Since then depositors have withdrawn around Rs 400 million from the finance company. "But we are not facing cash crunch as the central bank is indirectly pumping money into the financial institution," the source said.

M2 is going up and so is inflation, despite a deflation in India. If this continues, then the Nepalese financial market will be hit by a terrible storm!