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Worries Over March Quarter Slowdown Is Excessive Pessimism: Aditya Puri, HDFC

HDFC Bank managing director and chief executive Aditya Puri Friday rued that a slowdown in one quarter is leading to "excessive pessimism" about the health of the overall economy.

Mumbai: HDFC Bank managing director and chief executive Aditya Puri rued that a slowdown in one quarter is leading to "excessive pessimism" about the health of the overall economy.

Addressing the shareholders at the annual general meeting, the head of the largest private sector lender said his successor, a search for whom will begin soon, should be better than him in all respects.

"Fundamentally, I think there is excessive pessimism about the rate of growth, just because it has come down in one quarter," he told the shareholders, many of whom had asked questions on the macroeconomic worries.

He attributed the dip in economic growth to the general elections, and also explained that the auto industry, which has on a rough ride for almost a year now, experiences a similar phenomenon every four year.

The veteran banker was referring to GDP growth sliding to a five-year low of 5.8 per cent for the March quarter and the fully FY19 growth hitting a low of 6.8 per cent.

The comments come days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed those questioning the economic potential as "professional pessimists" and exuded confidence in the country becoming a $5-trillion economic giant during the course of his government's second term itself.

Puri said the plans laid out by government in the budget are "very good" and welcomed specific measures like overseas borrowing, higher divestment target, reviving non- banking lenders, bankruptcy laws and also getting excess capital from the RBI.

He said there is a need to focus on exports and manufacturing but pointed out unlike the manufacturing-dependent China, ours is a consumption driven economy.

On the issue of succession, he reiterated that the search panel will try locating internal and external candidates, and that his successor will be better than him in all respects that he can take over the job with only 15 days of mentorship.

He described reports of a share sale in the bank's captive NBFC arm, HDB Financial Services, as "speculative".

HDFC Bank does not have any strains on assets, with minimal or no exposures to problematic assets like infra lender IL&FS, Cox & Kings or Jet Airways, he said, adding "growth is not a problem, NPAs is not a problem, margins are not a problem for us".

The bank is looking to add up to 800 branches in FY20 and not looking at any overseas expansion as foreign geographies are in a mess, he said.

"We do not want to go overseas largely because they are in a mess," he said, and pointed out that those banks which went our have suffered.

Pulling up a fast one on competition, Puri said the RBI has not appointed any representatives on the bank's board but preferred to do so only on "bad banks".

He also said bank is not looking at any acquisitions at present.

The bank scrip closed 0.60 per cent down at Rs 2,393.45 on the BSE as against a correction of 0.22 per cent on the benchmark.