No Buyers for Agro Bank’s Sugarcane Company
EghtesadOnline: Bank Keshavarzi Iran, a state-owned lender to the agriculture sector, has 26 trillion rials ($200 million) in holdings that need to be sold, the bank’s deputy manager for legal and supervision affairs said.
According to Mohammad Aria, the value of excess assets owned by the specialized bank is comparably lower than other lenders.
However, he pointed to an item among the bank’s properties that has apparently created a hassle for scrapping it, IBENA reported.
Karun Agro Industrial Company is a giant sugarcane company in Shoushtar in southwest Iran that came under ownership of the agri-bank during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Financial Tribune reported.
With more than 12,000 workers and 40,000 hectares of land, the company is said to be worth 20 trillion rials ($153 million).
This firm accounts for almost 76% of the assets that should be sold, making it difficult for the bank to find a buyer.
“We have published auction notices several times. It is difficult to sell a loss-making company with so many workers,” Aria said.
This issue aside, the bank had 13 trillion rials worth of assets by the end of the calendar month to November 21, one trillion rials of which came from closing extra branches.
State lenders have been obliged by the Ministry of Economy to divest 30% their surplus assets every year.
Aria said the bank fulfilled this obligation last fiscal year (ended in March 2019).
Banks are under mounting pressure by the government to put an end to their non-banking businesses by getting rid of real estate and other holdings. The extra assets have piled up mainly due to impaired loans, bad debts, settlement of government debts to banks, closure of branches and failed investments in the past.
Excess property of banks is estimated to be in the region of 1,000 trillion rials ($8 billion). Lenders are asked to divest 400 trillion rials ($3 billion) before the current fiscal is out next March.
Many lenders have trouble finding buyers for their excess assets as the companies on offer are in the red and the prices demanded by the banks are unaffordable.
The Ministry of Economy recently launched on online auction mechanism to facilitate the properties of banks. Its data shows lenders’ surplus property to be worth 170 trillion rials ($1.3 billion). This, however, does not cover the excess assets of all banks.
The mechanism, dubbed ‘Fam’ is available at www.sam-ba.ir and www.fam-bank.ir. It allows potential buyers easy access to data about banks’ extra assets and facilitates sales via online auction.
Assets on offer include 1,246 manufacturing units and 277 animal husbandry companies. The minister noted that “earnings from all divestitures will go to banks and not to the treasury”.
Four banks, namely Bank Melli Iran, Mellat Bank, Agricultural Bank of Iran and Bank Saderat Iran, own 50% of the assets with the state-owned BMI topping the list with 14% of the total.