The Punjab National Bank building stands in Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

PNB Has Finally Found A Buyer For Its Old Headquarters

Punjab National Bank has found a buyer in the taxman for its old headquarters in New Delhi, according to a senior government official, capping year-long efforts to sell the building as the state-run lender tries to recover from the setback of India’s biggest banking fraud.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes has agreed to buy the property in the prime Bhikaji Cama Place locality in South Delhi for Rs 600 crore, the official said on the condition of anonymity as the details are not public yet. CBDT is the apex tax body in India under the Department of Revenue.

Emailed queries to PNB and CBDT remained unanswered.

The bank has been looking to raise around Rs 8,600 crore by selling assets since the Rs 14,000-crore fraud involving jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi was unearthed at a Mumbai branch in February last year. As of July last year, the bank said in its filings, it had sold non-core assets worth Rs 167 crore. No such sales were reported as of December. It’s expected to get around Rs 1,851 crore divesting its holding in PNB Housing Finance Ltd. to General Atlantic Group and Varde Partners.

Besides CBDT, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs had also shown interest for outright purchase of the building, the official quoted earlier said. The reason cited by both the departments was high spending for leasing office space for its officials, leading to the burden on the exchequer.

Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey gave approval to the CBDT to acquire the building citing its ‘top priority’ projects like centralised processing centre, which will reduce processing of income returns from 63 days to one, and e-assessment, he said.