EXCLUSIVE: RBI tells SBI to bid aggressively at next switch auction; redemptions need to be brought down

NEW DELHI: The Reserve Bank of India, in a recent interaction with the country’s biggest bank, State Bank of India, is said to have requested the PSU lender to purchase a large quantum of bonds set to be offered in the conversion programme on October 18, multiple sources told ETMarkets.com.

On October 18, the government is scheduled to switch two short-term bonds – the 5.09 per cent, 2022 paper and the 8.08 per cent, 2022 paper (maturing in April 13, 2022 and August 2, 2022) with three longer-term floating rate bonds – the FRB 2028 bond, the FRB, 2031 bond and the FRB 2034 bond.

The total quantum of the switch, or Conversion operation is scheduled at Rs 36,000 crore.

In a ‘conversion’ or switch operation, the government typically issues longer-term bonds in lieu of short-term papers in order to smoothen out redemption obligations in the future.

In the next financial year, the government’s debt repayments are scheduled at a humongous Rs 4.2 lakh crores. If the government and RBI do not manage to bring this figure down significantly, gross borrowing – the sum of the government’s net cash requirement plus redemptions are likely to outstrip the earlier record high of roughly Rs 13 lakh crore.

“RBI had a backdoor meeting with SBI; out of the 36,000 crore of floaters (FRBs) up for auction, SBI will take at least 20,000 crore; that was the essence of the conversation,” a treasury head with the knowledge of the matter said on the condition of anonymity.

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