Airtel, Telenor, Vodafone eye India bank licenses

Dylan Bushell-Embling
27 Jan 2015

Bharti Airtel, Telenor and Vodafone are reportedly all considering applying for payment banking licenses in India.

All three operators are in talks with potential partners over forming payment banking joint ventures, the Economic Timesreported, citing sources.

For Telenor and Vodafone, which each own 100% of their Indian subsidiaries, finding a domestic partner would be required. By law foreign companies are only allowed to hold a maximum of a 74% stake in a payment bank.

The government is currently taking applications for payment bank permits, and has set a deadline of February 2.

Under terms established in November, payment banks will be able to accept demand deposits of up to 100,000 rupees ($1628) and offer payment and remittance services, but will not be allowed to offer credit facilities directly. They will need to partner with established banks to offer credit.

Both Telenor and Vodafone have extensive mobile banking experience, making them prime contenders for a licence.

More broadly, experts consider telecom operators to be ideal candidates for establishing payment banking services due to their established distribution networks and their significant customer bases in rural areas.

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