Habib Bank to close accounts inactive for five years

Habib Bank Limited (HBL) has announced that all bank accounts that have been inactive for more than five years will be closed if the account holders do not tell the bank what to do with the accounts.

Vnews reported that the bank has already given 45 days to report, and that the current 13 day period is an extension of this.

The bank states that failure to contact the bank within this period will result in the account being shut down and cheque books and standing instruction being cancelled. According to HBL, the money in such accounts will be handed over to Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) next month as stated in Article 35 of the Banking Act.

There are currently 63 accounts without any activity over the past five years.


MIAL to take over airport operations by July 1, says Finance Minister

The government has declared it intends to transfer the operation of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) from the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) to a new state-owned company, Male International Airport Limited (MIAL).

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told local media that MIAL would take over the airport’s operations by July 1.

“The company has been registered. Now remains the work by MACL to hand over operations. It will begin soon, without delay,” the Finance Minister said, according to Sun Online.

“The new company will run the airport. The ownership of the airport will remain with MACL until arbitration is completed. But the work on transferring the employees and such will continue, when they take over operations. An official handover of the assets will also be conducted,” Jihad was reported as saying.

His comments follow the leaking of a letter recently sent to the Finance Ministry by Axis Bank, one of backers of the GMR-Malaysia Airports (GMR-MAHB) consortium which the government evicted from the Maldives in December 2012, after declaring the concession agreement signed under the former administration “void from the start”.

A copy of the direct agreement attached to the leaked letter showed the Finance Ministry guaranteed the loans taken by GMR-MAHB, which was signed and stamped in November 2008 by both MACL and then-Finance Minister Ali Hashim.

Axis Bank has called in the guarantee and is currently seeking US$160 million from the government and MACL. In the letter copied to both the Finance Ministry and MACL, the bank expressed concern that the government was attempting to turn MACL into a shell company while arbitration was pending, and warned it not to transfer the company’s assets or function to a new entity.

“Given that Axis Bank’s claim under the direct agreement is against MACL, you will understand that Axis Bank views with the greatest concern any attempt to dissipate the assets of MACL in favour of MIAL or any other third party,” wrote Axis Bank’s CEO Bimal Bhattacharyya in the letter, dated April 22.

“If MACL ceases to manage and operate Male’ airport, and MIAL instead performs that role, then MACL will lose almost all of MACL’s revenue stream, and become a shell,” he wrote.

The letter demanded the government “undertake not to allow any assignment, transfer or disposition of any of MACL’s rights to manage and or operate Male airport to MIAL or any third party… or allow MIAL or any third party to perform any function of managing or operating Male’ airport which is presently performed by MACL”.

“Please understand that Axis Bank views any dissipation of MACL’s assets with grave concern, and will take the necessary legal action to prevent such a dissipation”, the bank advised.

MIAL’s appointed CEO Bandhu Saleem at the time told Minivan News that “until the arbitration is complete, I think it will be very difficult to start a new company.”

Meanwhile, uncertainty over the fate of the airport and the outcome of both the arbitration process and the upcoming presidential election led the global body representing the world’s airports, Airports Council International (ACI), to issue an alert to its members advising them to “conduct due diligence while considering any investment in the Maldives, considering the latest developments, uncertainty of outcome of elections, the legal and financial risks of the current arbitration and the nascent legal framework.”

ACI informed its members that the takeover was the subject of arbitration proceedings expected to last 9-12 months, and further noted that as the government had guaranteed the bank loans used by the developer, these were also the subject of separate proceedings.

With elections scheduled for September, ACI advised it was possible that “any leadership changes arising out of the elections [could] have a material impact of the future of the Male’ airport and the decision of expropriation.”


Ratings agency warns Sri Lankan bank over exposure to Maldives lending

Financial risk evaluation agency Fitch Ratings has warned one of Sri Lanka’s largest privately-held banks that its AA rating is vulnerable due to exposure to weak lending in the Maldives.

According to the Lanka Business Online publication, Fitch warned that Hatton National Bank (HNB)’s rating was “constrained by the bank’s exposure to weak credits in Maldives, lower loan loss reserve coverage and a rising loan/deposit ratio.”

HNB’s exposure to Maldivian resort projects (23% of equity at end-2011) “mean downside risks from asset quality remain,” Lanka business reported.

Fitch is one of the world’s largest three credit ratings agencies, along with Standard & Poor (S&P) and Moody’s.

Ratings produced by these firms are used by investors, issuers, investment banks, broker-dealers, and governments to evaluate financial risk.


BML fined Rf10,000 for not publishing quarterly report

The Capital Market Development Authority (CMDA) has fined the Bank of Maldives Plc for upto Rf10,000 (US$648) after the bank failed to publish the quarterly report for the last three months of 2011 before the requested due date.

According to a statement released on Sunday, the companies listed under under the Securities (Continuing Disclosure Obligations of Issuers) Regulations, including BML, must produce a quarterly report after every three months, within the following 30 days.

However, CMDA noted that BML failed to produce fourth quarterly report for last year within the given 30 day period and the 37 day extension which ended on March 8.

Therefore under the 17 section of the regulations, the bank has been fined Rf 10,000 (US$648) and ordered to publish the report by March 15.

According to the bank, the report has been delayed due to a pending audit, local newspaper Haveeru reported.

The fourth quarterly report requires more work as it must be published with annual figures that must be audited prior to publication, the bank said.


Gang robs elderly man of Rf 200,000

A group of four men have robbed an elderly man of Rf 200,000 (US$13,000) while he was on his way to deposit the money in the bank.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed incident and said police were investigating the case.

‘’The elderly man suffered minor injuries in the incident,’’ Shiyam said, but would not give further details.

According to local newspaper Haveeru, the man was robbed as he walked out from a café inside the Alimas Carnival area.

The paper quoted a witness as saying that as the elderly man walked out, four men on two motorbikes were waiting for him and forced him to give the money to them.

He told the paper that the assailants left a box cutter blade and a sandal in the area as they fled away.

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission has put up a notice on the High Commission Office notice board informing all Indian citizens residing in the Maldives to take “precautionary measures” while walking in the streets of Male’, and to avoid wearing jewelry.

The High Indian High Commission noted that there were increasing reports of snatch-and-grab incidents lately.


BML compares staff performance to company goals

Bank of Maldives (BML) is collaborating with leading UK consultancy firm Hunter Roberts to incorporate a performance management system into its operations.

The system is said to measure bank management by evaluating employees performances and comparing them with the bank’s overall goals, a bank official has told Haveeru News.

The performance management system will be introduced by 10 “Performance Management Champions”, who have been trained to instruct executive team and department heads.


BML suspends Vilingili branch employee for alleged fraud

An employee at Bank of Maldives (BML) in the Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Vilingili branch has been suspended on allegations of fraud.

The bank did not identify the employee to the press.

A person from the island told Haveeru that the employee had allegedly sent a forged letter to the branch manager in the account owner’s name, requesting that Rf 2,000 (US$130) be transferred to another account.

It is believed that the money was transferred to the account of one of the employee’s friends.

The fraud came into light when the account owner’s mother went to the bank to withdraw Rf 2,000 only to find that the amount was not available.

“When the bank told her that the account did not have that much cash in it she objected, stressing that her child had deposited the amount. The employee was suspended after the bank tracked down the transaction,” the person said.

In a statement forwarded to Haveeru, the bank said employees found responsible for the fraud had been suspended and that the bank, like any other bank in the world, sometimes faced cases of staff fraud.

“But given the millions of transactions made at the bank annually, the numbers of fraud cases are considerably less compared to global rates of such incidences,” the statement read.

The statement further noted that the mechanism necessary for customer protection is fully established at the bank and that a system, which allows the tracking of transactions and all customer-employee exchanges, is accessible at all times.


MMA auctioning dollars to banks

The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has begun auctioning dollars to banks, which are now able to sell them at up to Rf15.42.

The dollars distributed to banks were previously limited to set amounts. The MMA has declined to reveal which banks have won the first auction, held yesterday, or the exchange rate involved.

Haveeru reported that banks that did not win the auction had not traded dollars today.

The government last week implemented a managed float of the rufiya within a 20 percent band of the pegged rate of Rf12.85, a move praised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).