Lenders have to pay the price if any enterprise shuts down: SBI chairman

State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Rajnish Kumar on Saturday said neither Vodafone Idea nor Bharti Airtel was a non-performing account with the bank, but stressed that the entire economy, including lenders, would have to pay the price if any enterprise shut down or filed for bankruptcy.

His comments came a day after the Supreme Court made it clear that telecom companies would have to pay Rs 1.47 trillion of past dues to the government.

“If there is a negative impact on any enterprise, it impacts the larger ecosystem. Whether it is banks, whether it is employees, vendors or consumers, everyone gets impacted. Whenever it comes, we will have to pay the price,” Kumar told reporters in response to a query as to what would happen if telcos failed to pay the dues and filed for bankruptcy. He said only two telecom accounts with SBI — Aircel and Reliance Communications — were NPAs. “All other accounts are performing accounts. Not even a single account has any overdue,” Kumar said.

The SBI chairman said the bank was in the wait-and-watch mode.

This was because none of the companies had told him whether it was going to shut down or how was it going to pay the government, he said.

“We have not received any official announcement from any of the companies that it was shutting down shop. They have not said anything on the subject. So we will wait to see what stand they take. Once that stand is made clear, it will be possible for me to give any reaction,” he said on the sidelines of an SBI event to inaugurate the statues made from e-waste. It is up to telcos how do they comply with the Supreme Court order and it is up to the Department of Telecommunications how would it ensure compliance, he said.

SBI’s exposure to the telecom sector stands at Rs 37,793 crore. For it, the bank has made provisions of around Rs 9,000 crore till the December quarter.

Kumar said SBI would not pass on the burden of the hike in the premium of deposit insurance to its customers.

“We never recovered the premium from customers, we will not do it now. As far as the impact of the rise from 10 paise to 12 paise is concerned, earlier if we were paying Rs 3,000 crore, now we will pay Rs 3,600 crore premium,” he said. Following the failure of a number of cooperative banks, with Mumbai-based PMC Bank being the latest and the largest last year, the government hiked the deposit insurance coverage to Rs 5 lakh from Rs 1 lakh in the Union Budget 2020-21.

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