Mumbai: Under the lens of the Reserve Bank, leading gold finance companies have decided to form a self-regulatory organisation (SRO) which will frame a fair business practices code for the industry.
    
The move is being spearheaded by industry leader Muthoot Finance's Managing Director George Alexander Muthoot and has Manappuram Finance, Muthoot Fincorp, Sriram Citi Union, and Kosamattam Financiers as members, among others.
    
"We feel that the RBI has not been comfortable with the fast growth of our industry, which led the regulator to tighten norms on banks' exposure to this industry in April and also bring down loan-to-value ratio," Muthoot told from Kochi over the phone.
    
"We want to send out a message to the regulator that we are complying with all its regulations. We are giving them (RBI) time to understand our business model," he added.
    
Muthoot expressed hope that the proposed SRO, under the banner of the Association of Gold Loan Companies, will represent the sector better at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
    
The SRO will represent about 85 per cent of gold loan portfolio, he added.
    
Muthoot said his company has seen its volume sliding by over 5 percent following RBI's tightening and said same would be case with other players.
    
This year, he is expecting a tempered growth of 10 to 25 percent. "But we expect the pace to pick up steam by Q3," he said.
    
Muthoot Finance has also decided to curtail its expansion this year. The company which has 3,700 branches will be opening only 250-300 branches this year, Muthoot said, adding that he expects consolidation in the industry as general slowdown in volumes will hit the margins.
    
On fund raising, he said the company will not need much. "The focus will be on concentrating more on growth of existing branches, rather than adding more branches," he said.
    
However, towards the later part of fiscal, the company will go in for some fund raising, primarily through an NCD issue of around Rs 500 crore. Last fiscal, it had raised Rs 1,500 crore three NCD issues, he said.

Notably, the RBI has been tightening screws on the industry for quite some time.
    
While in late-March, the RBI tightened norms for gold loan NBFCs by asking them to increase their tier-I capital to 12 percent and capped loans at 60 percent of the market value of gold, in April, it had asked banks to reduce their exposure to gold loan NBFCs.
    
The move came as the RBI was concerned about rising gold imports, which touched USD 66.1 billion last fiscal against USD 40.5 billion in FY 2011, widening the trade and current account deficit.
    
The RBI had also set up working group to suggest ways to deal with the industry.
    
While capping the LTV at 60 percent, the RBI had said, "The rapid growth of the gold loan segment, which grew 50 percent last fiscal, had increased risks to the banking system and retail investors."
    
Accordingly, the RBI has directed that gold loan NBFCs having half their assets in gold should have a tier-I capital of 12 percent by April 2014. Further, these companies cannot lend more than 60 percent of the value of gold jewellery.
    
The RBI is worried that since these companies lend 70-75 percent of the value of gold, a fall in prices could destabilise the system.
    
The central bank has also banned these companies from lending against bullion, primary gold and gold coins, leaving just jewellery.
    
The RBI, in its annual policy had also asked banks to set up internal exposure limits for these NBFCs who have gold loans portfolio of over 50 percent of the total financial assets.
    
It also asked banks to reduce their exposure to a single NBFC, having gold loans to the extent of 50 percent or more of its total financial assets, from the existing 10 to 7.5 percent.
    
In the wake of huge spurt in gold imports and its impact on balance of payment, the Budget increased Customs duty on standard gold bars, gold coins of purity exceeding 99.5 percent and platinum from 2 to 4 percent apart from doubling customs on non-standard gold to 10 percent.
    
For FY 2012, Muthoot Finance's total volume of gold under its custody rose 22 percent to 137 tonne from 112 tonne.

(Agencies)

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