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India's top banks say Adani exposure within RBI limits but remain watchful

The logo of the Adani Group is seen on the facade of its Corporate House on the outskirts of Ahmedabad

By Nupur Anand and Siddhi Nayak

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Some of India's leading public sector banks said on Friday their exposure to the Adani Group was within the limits prescribed by the central bank, assuaging fears of default risks from their exposure to the conglomerate.

The ports-to-energy conglomerate, helmed by Gautam Adani - one of the world's richest men, has come under attack from U.S. short-seller Hindenburg Research, leading to a sharp fall in shares of group companies and the lenders that have exposure to it.

The Reserve Bank of India allows for no more than 25% of a bank's available eligible capital base to be exposed to any one group of connected companies.

Public sector banks in India have in the past been hit by massive corporate defaults. Lenders have since taken several measures to clean up their books, but any fresh default by a large corporate could strain their balance sheet.

"There is nothing alarming about our Adani exposure and we don't have any concerns as of now," Dinesh Kumar Khara, chairman of country's largest lender State Bank of India, told Reuters on Friday.

Khara said the Adani Group hadn't raised any funding from SBI in the recent past and that the bank would take a "prudent call" on any funding request from them in the near future.

SBI has reached out to the company for clarification, said another official at the bank who spoke on condition of anonymity as the matter is confidential.

The board will take any decision on the bank's exposure to the group only after that, the official said.

An official at state-run Bank of India added that the lender's loans to the Adani group were within permissible limits, while executives at two other private lenders said that they were not yet in "panic mode" but being watchful.

"Our exposure to the Adani Group is below the large exposure framework of the Reserve Bank of India," an executive at the Bank of India said on conditions of anonymity as the details were private.

"Till last month, the Adani Group's interest payment on loans has been intact."

The Union Bank of India was not seeing any stress from their exposure to the conglomerate either, an official at the bank said, also speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter was private.

The Adani Group comprises the flagship Adani Enterprises Ltd, as well as Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd, Adani Power Ltd, Adani Green Energy Ltd and Adani Transmission Ltd.

According to Jefferies, the group's debt accounts for 0.5% of total loans across the Indian banking sector. For public sector banks, the debt is at 0.7% of total loans and for private banks, it is at 0.3%.

"We are waiting for more explanation from them and each bank will have to take a call based on what sort of exposure they have on Adani," a senior executive at a private bank, who did not want to be named as he was not authorized to speak with media, said.

(Reporting by Siddhi Nayak; Editing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee)