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The success of mobile banking in the developing world has been a story of mixed results, but recent initiatives suggest that the technology is on the cusp of delivering sophisticated financial services to the poorest segments of society in India.

The latest innovation is the Interbank Mobile Payment Service (IMPS), a joint venture launched in November by seven major banks, including State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and HDFC Bank. This service makes it possible to transfer money for everyday payments using a mobile phone, and while it is not the first of its kind in India, the hope is that it will provide the impetus for a long-awaited breakthrough.

Read more at Financial Services Briefing: “Lenders team up on mobile service” (December 20th)

A “robust” recovery is underway for private equity in emerging markets, according to an industry group. The Emerging Markets Private Equity Association notes that buyouts in developing markets reached US$13bn in the first half of this year, up from US$8bn at the same time last year. The rise was driven mainly by activity in China, India and Latin America.

Fundraising is also ahead of last year, with some US$11bn raised in the first six months of 2010, a 22% increase on the previous year. Although investments remain modest in relation to other emerging regions, fundraising in sub-Saharan Africa in the first six months of 2010 surpassed the total raised in the whole of 2009.

As a card-carrying member of the BRIC group of emerging markets, India is expected to serve as a key growth engine of the global economy. For many industries, this remains the case. For the private equity industry, not so much.

For one, Indian private equity deals accounted for only 2% of global transaction value in 2009, according to ARC Financial Services. In addition, dealmaking in India collapsed last year like it did it most other developing, and developed, markets. Deal value, at US$3.4bn, was down nearly 70% on the year before. The average deal size, US$17.5m, was half of what it was in 2008.

Of course, size isn’t everything. With banking penetration low, microfinance institutions in India have plenty of scope for growth (from a deliberately low base). Some 10% of private equity deal volume was in this sector last year, with more to come in 2010, ARC predicts.

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