Reserve Bank of India stops fresh business at Paytm Payments Bank

Representational image: Reuters

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has ordered Paytm Payments Bank Ltd, an associate of One 97 Communications Ltd, to stop accepting fresh deposits in its accounts or popular wallets from March, in a major blow to one of the country's largest payments firms.

The RBI had in 2022 asked the bank to stop adding customers. A subsequent audit revealed "persistent non-compliances and continued material supervisory concerns in the bank", the central bank said on Wednesday, without disclosing details.

The regulator used a legal provision that allows it to act in the interest of depositors, and did not specify a timeline for reviewing the restrictions imposed on the bank.

"For all practical purposes, the above notifications end the operations of Paytm Payments Bank," Bernstein said in a note on Wednesday evening.

"This is a definite negative development and adds to the already heavy regulatory overhang on the business," Bernstein analysts said.

Paytm did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

After Feb. 29, the bank will not be able to take fresh deposits, facilitate credit transactions or offer fund transfers, including via India's popular Unified Payment Interface, the RBI said.

However, customers will be able to withdraw or utilise their balances held with the bank, the RBI said.

The RBI will also terminate the nodal accounts of both Paytm and Paytm Payments Services not later than Feb. 29. Paytm Payments Services is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Paytm. Nodal accounts are used to facilitate transactions.

The regulator appears to have concerns about an "arms-length distance" not being maintained between the bank, One97 and Paytm Payments Services, a source familiar with the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity as discussions with the regulator are private.

Persistent concerns
One 97 Communications, widely known as Paytm, is one of India's largest payment firms and counts SoftBank and Ant Financial among its early investors.

It holds 49% in the payments bank, while promoter Vijay Shekhar Sharma holds the remaining 51%, according to the company's annual report for 2022-23. The bank received its license in 2015.

In March 2022, the RBI had ordered a comprehensive audit of the Paytm Payments Bank's systems but had not stopped all fresh business as it has done now.

In October 2023, the central bank fined the bank for failing to do adequate customer due diligence.

Officials from Paytm Payments Bank had met with the RBI earlier this month, the source said.

The bank will seek clarity on if and when these restrictions will be lifted, this person said.

Bernstein said it expects no immediate impact on the payment or loan origination business of Paytm.

"These curbs are going to impact the Paytm platform operations also in the medium term," said Kranthi Bathini, director of equity strategy at WealthMills Securities.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.