In a revised policy BB eases offshore banking rules

Business Report
As the country’s banking sector is suffering from severe liquidity crisis, the central bank in a latest move revised its policy to allow local industrial houses to take loan in foreign currency from offshore banking units (OBUs) of the local banks.
An offshore banking is run by commercial bank in foreign currency to mitigate clients’ financial need in concessionary rate of interest.
Earlier in February this year Bangladesh Bank issued a full-fledged policy to bring discipline in off-shore banking to pave the way of expansion of its credit activities to serve ore local clients. In the wake of the Association of Bankers, Bangladesh (ABB), a platform of private banks’ managing directors, in April called upon the central bank to revise the policy which made such banking rater difficult.
As a conciliatory move, the BB has revised the policy to allow local companies to take loans from OBUs at LIBOR plus 3.5 percent, a much cheaper rate.LIBOR is the rate at what banks charge each other for short-term loans in the London interbank market.
It also serves as a global benchmark for short-term interest rates. The LIBOR will be followed because the loans will be given in foreign currency.The OBUs, however, will have to take prior approval from the central bank to provide financing to them.
The joint venture companies housed in export processing and economic zones and hi-tech parks can also take short-term loans from OBU without any prior approval from the BB.Exporters can also take funds in advance from the OBUs against their shipments, which is widely known as bill discounting, according to the latest central bank notice.
In the revised policy, banks are also allowed to transfer funds in the form of placement from one OBU to another.This will help the OBUs ease their liquidity crunch instantly as they can borrow from their peers, said a BB official who worked on the revised policy.
The central bank, however, did not entertain the ABB’s demand to scrap the clause of keeping statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) and cash reserve ratio (CRR) for the OBUs.Banks have to keep 13 percent of their OBUs’ total liabilities as SLR and 5.50 percent as CRR from July 1.
The OBUs do not have to maintain separate nostro accounts with their foreign correspondent banks as well; their mother banks’ accounts will suffice. A nostro account is an account that a bank holds in a foreign currency in a foreign bank, said the source.

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