Rally lures India’s top bank to do equity deals

MUMBAI: A hot equity market in India is prompting HDFC Bank Ltd to try to muscle in on the action as companies raise record levels of funding.

The government has flooded the market with money in response to one of the world’s worst outbreaks of coronavirus, pushing stocks to dizzying levels and helping companies to boost capital buffers.

Despite being India’s most valuable lender, HDFC Bank so far hasn’t been able to exploit its strong balance sheet to make inroads into this competitive market.

“We will do whatever it takes to reach there – hire more people, grow more people from inside and even enter into partnerships, ” Rakesh Singh, group head of investment banking, private banking, marketing and products at HDFC Bank, said in an interview.

“As we build our distribution network a larger share of the equity capital market deals will come our way.”

It may be easier said than done for a relatively late starter like HDFC Bank to grab a bigger share of the market as it grapples with uncertainty over its asset quality.

The country’s second-largest lender will have to fight it out with veteran local players including ICICI Bank Ltd, Axis Bank Ltd and State Bank of India.

HDFC Bank ranked number 16 for overall equity deals business last year, and number 29 in 2019, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“It’s a cut-throat market where big corporates prefer to work with dominant and well-established bankers with existing relationships who can offer them the best pricing, ” said Siddharth Purohit, an analyst at SMC Global Securities Ltd.

“Unless HDFC Bank offers something attractive it will not be easy for them to grow this business quickly and get the big-ticket deals.”

India’s stocks have extended their climb, reflecting investor optimism that the economy will rebound strongly from devastation caused by the coronavirus.

The benchmark index ended 0.6% higher on Friday, close to its record high in February.

Companies raised 789 billion rupees (US$10.8bil or RM44.67bil) so far this year through the equity markets, a 9.3% increase from last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

That’s after an unprecedented trillions of rupees of deals in 2020.

HDFC Bank is the third largest company by market capitalisation on the Indian stock exchanges.

It is also the 13th largest employer in India with nearly 120,000 employees. As of 2019, the bank’s distribution network was at 5,500 branches across 2,764 cities. ─ Bloomberg

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