International News Desk – At Home: India’s banks expanding in Canada – In Foreign News: Indonesian fuel retailers ordered to sell biofuel

International News Desk – At Home: India’s banks expanding in Canada – In Foreign News: Indonesian fuel retailers ordered to sell biofuel

At Home: India’s banks expanding in Canada

After more than 25 years in Canada, the State Bank of India (SBI) is thinking of expanding operations here?and they’re not the only Indian bank to do so. ICICI, based in Mumbai, will open its ninth Canadian branch this month, and as many as three other Indian banks are planning to follow the trend.

?We follow our customers. It’s as simple as that,? Sriram Iyer told reporters. ?And since so many Indians are immigrating to Canada, it was an obvious choice.? Iyer is president and CEO of ICICI’s Canadian subsidiary, ICICI Bank in Canada.

The move marks a major shift for India’s banks, not only in location but also in the services offered, especially for SBI (international asset base as of March 31, 2008, of $265 billion US).

A public-sector institution, SBI’s mandate is to minimize exposure to risks. For example, until this month Canadian customers were unable to access their accounts through a debit card, but the recent launch of the bank’s first debit card in Canada is a sign of the changing times.

Originally, India’s banks focused on the large ex-pat Southeast Asian communities in British Columbia and Ontario. Now, they’re expanding into markets such as Quebec and Alberta, and widening their focus to include Canadian businesses that want to invest in India’s booming economy.

Although the comparatively small Canadian market may not seem a likely place to expand (30 million Canadians versus a market of over 1.2 billion in India), It’s the growing prosperity of Indo-Canadian customers That’s attracting the notice of the banks.

As Sunil Jagosia, past president of the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, explains: ?Nobody wants to be left behind in the race to globalize. As the disposable income of Indo-Canadians rises . . . they maintain two residences?in India and Canada?and it is this segment of wealthy clients the banks are pursuing.?

The public sector Central Bank of India and the Bank of Baroda are also scheduled to launch Canadian operations. For their part, Canadian banks are seizing the opportunities in the growing Indian economy. The Bank of Nova Scotia has five branches in India, and the Royal Bank of Canada opened a representative office in India’s commercial capital of Mumbai early this year.

In Foreign News: Indonesian fuel retailers ordered to sell biofuel

Depending on which side you listen to, biofuel is either the answer to our environmental problems or a scourge that will deposit even more carbon into the air as forests and grasslands are destroyed. Either way, fuel retailers in Indonesia have been given their orders: they will now be required to make biofuels roughly three per cent of their national sales.

According to the Asia News Network, the regulations will take effect in October but the Indonesian government is ?offering no incentives for compliance.?

Currently, the required minimum for biodiesel is expected to be one per cent, while the minimum for bioethanol will be three per cent. The policy is still being developed and the minimum percentages are subject to change.

The policy is expected to help the country reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, and minimum mandatory percentages of biofuel will be increased annually.

?Our target is for biofuel to contribute five percent of the national energy portfolio by 2025,? Evita H. Legowo told reporters. Legowo is director general for oil and gas at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

Although the government is setting mandatory production levels, getting consumers to purchase the biofuel may not prove as easy: the supposedly green alternative is currently no cheaper than subsidized fossil fuel.