RBI approves Westpac licence for operations in India

Australian lender Westpac said in an email today that it had won in-principle approval to obtain a foreign banking licence to operate in India. It added, the agreement with India's central bank paved the way for Westpac to provide commercial and wholesale banking operations in India for the first time.

 The bank would be opening its first branch in Mumbai, where it had operated a "representative" office for the past five years and the license would also let Westpac undertake rupee-denominated transactions.

According to group executive of Westpac Institutional Bank, Rob Whitfield, the move would help Westpac capitalise on growing trade and investment between India and Australia, especially in the agriculture and resources sectors.

He added India was Australia's fifth-largest trading partner and fourth-largest export market so it was a very important market for our customers.

The second-largest bank in Australia by market capitalisation had tended to focus more on its home market and had the smallest international exposure of the four major banks.

Westpac had said it had licences in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore even as its group chief executive, Gail Kelley, said any further expansion would be selective.