Finance ministry asks PSU general insurers to rationalise branches; USIBC meets Nirmala Sitharaman

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The finance ministry has asked public sector general insurance firms to rationalise branches and cut avoidable expenses to improve their financial health.

Of the four public sector general insurers, National Insurance, Oriental Insurance and United India Insurance are loss-making. The outlier in this segment is New India Assurance.

The advisory of the ministry follows Parliament's approval to a bill to allow privatisation of state-owned general insurers in August in line with the Budget announcement.

The finance ministry has asked these companies to rationalise branches and also trim administrative layers wherever possible, sources said.

Besides, sources said, they have been asked to expand their business through a cost effective digital medium.

"Public sector general insurance firms are implementing various government schemes. Rationalisation of branches should not lead to hardship for the poor as they may have to travel long distances for settlement of their small claims for example cattle insurance or fasal bima," General Insurance Employees All India Association general secretary K Govindan said.

As a stakeholder, the union raised these issues before the management of various companies, he said, adding, there should be presence of a branch in each district headquarter so that the poor don't have to face any issue.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget 2021-22 had announced a big-ticket privatisation agenda, including privatisation of two public sector banks and one general insurance company.

As part of the divestment strategy for the financial sector, the government has decided to go for a mega initial public offering (IPO) of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and residual stake sale in IDBI Bank during this financial year.

The government has budgeted Rs 1.75 lakh crore from stake sale in public sector companies and financial institutions during 2021-22.

Last year, the Union Cabinet decided to halt the merger process of three state-owned general insurance companies due to weak financial positions of these three companies. Instead, the government approved a fund infusion of Rs 12,450 crore to meet regulatory parameters.

As part of capital infusion exercise, the government approved raising authorised share capital of National Insurance Company Ltd to Rs 7,500 crore and that of United India Insurance Company Ltd (UIICL) and Oriental Insurance Company Ltd (OICL) to Rs 5,000 crore each.

The Rs 12,450 crore capital infusion approved by the Cabinet in July includes Rs 2,500 crore provided to these companies during 2019-20. During this year, the government infused Rs 3,475 crore while announcing infusion of the balance Rs 6,475 crore in one or more tranches.

USIBC meets Nirmala Sitharaman, praises India's reform trajectory

Members of the influential US India Business Council in their meeting with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday praised India's reform trajectory and exuded confidence in the growing Indian economy.

"We praised her reform trajectory and discussed new opportunities to strengthen commercial ties between the US and India," USIBC said after they along with CII hosted the visiting finance minister for an interactive session.

Business leaders thanked the minister in laying down the vision for future growth and congratulated the Indian Government in steering the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Finance Ministry said.

Participating business leaders also expressed keen interest in scaling up their investments in India, it said.

Prominent among those who attended the meeting were Milind Pant, Amway CEO; Vivek Lall, Chief Executive of General Atomics Global Corporation; Octavio Simoes, president and CEO of Tellurian; Chris Ripley, president and CEO of Sinclair Broadcasting Group and SV Anchan chairman of Safesea Group.

The meeting was attended by CEOs and business leaders from insurance, private equity, technology, energy and pharma sectors amongst others.

India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, also addressed the meeting that was presided over by USIBC president Nisha Desai Biswal.

With inputs from PTI

Also See: Fitch Ratings cuts India's economic growth forecast to 8.7%, cites COVID-19 impact

India faced COVID-19 crisis with resilience, 'walked the talk' on global fight, says Nirmala Sitharaman

US India Business Council meets Nirmala Sitharaman; shows interest in ramping up investment

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