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India said to consider combining lender to women with state bank

[NEW DELHI] India may consider merging state-run Bharatiya Mahila Bank with State Bank of India, the country's largest lender, said people briefed on the matter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet will soon take up a proposal to combine the New Delhi-based BMB with State Bank, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information isn't public. BMB, which has more than 60 branches, was founded in 2013 by the former government to focus on lending to women in the country.

Maintaining BMB as a standalone entity would have required large amount capital infusion by the government, the people said. The government will consider suggestions for the "consolidation" of state-run banks, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told lawmakers in July 2014.

DS Malik, the spokesman at the finance ministry in New Delhi, couldn't immediately be reached for a comment, while SBI spokesman M.K. Rekhi didn't immediately respond to a phone call and an e-mail. Calls to the communication department of BMB weren't answered.

State Bank had more than 16,333 outlets and 13.4 trillion rupees (US$211 billion) of loans outstanding as of March 31, exchange filings show. India has a fragmented banking system with more than 90 domestic and foreign lenders competing for US$1.3 trillion of deposits.

SBI shares rose by 0.5 per cent to 261.05 rupees as of 12:54 pm Mumbai trading. BMB is not listed on stock exchanges.