Fairfax India to acquire 51percent equity in Catholic Syrian Bank

NewDelhi,Dec2:Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa’s Fairfax India Holdings Corp. has agreed to acquire a controlling 51% equity holding in Thrissur-based Catholic Syrian Bank (CSB) for around Rs1,000 crore.

The entire process for the stake acquisition is expected to be completed by March next year, S. Santhanakrishnan, the outgoing Chairman of the bank, said.

“We hope to get an in-principle approval from the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) in December and 90 days will be a good time to finish the process,” he told newspersons. Fairfax had applied to the RBI seeking permission to invest in an Indian bank in June.

The RBI, in turn, forwarded the proposal to CSB and the bank expressed its readiness on the deal.

Rather than going around raising money from multiple investors, it is good to source money from a single investor, Santhanakrishnan said, adding that the bank will appoint an independent evaluator for valuation after receiving the RBI nod. The Rs1,000 crore will enable CSB to increase its business 10-fold. The new focus, he said, will be on small and medium enterprises (SMEs), gold and retail. The bank has decided not to go aggressive on corporate lending, he said, adding that there will be more technology-related products to woo young customers.

To a question on an IPO, he said, it will be more to meet the regulator’s norm and that could be done towards the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, TS Anantharaman has taken over as the new chairman of the bank and Santhanakrishnan will continue as a director.