India’s biggest bank is caught between investors like Larry Fink and Narendra Modi.
State Bank of India needs to finance coal projects to meet the Indian leader’s push to electrify more homes, yet it wants to back renewable projects to appease global money managers including Fink’s BlackRock Inc., Storebrand ASA and Amundi SA. For now it’s doing a bit of both.
“Investors’ concerns are very important to us, we take them into consideration,” the lender’s head of corporate banking and global markets, Ashwani Bhatia, said in an interview. “But we also have commitments to the country. There are so many coal mines being developed in India because we need them to produce steel, aluminum, electricity.”
The listed state-owned lender has a tough balancing act on its financial support for coal-fired power plants, which are a major contributor to air pollution. International investors are increasingly restricting support to companies involved in extracting or consuming coal, yet nearly 70% of India’s electricity comes from coal plants, and demand for power is set to rise as the economy recovers from the blows of the pandemic.