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Public sector banks are in the process of closing or rationalising about 70 overseas operations as part of capital conservation exercise.

Unviable foreign operations are being shut while multiple branches in same cities or nearby places are being rationalised with a view to achieving efficiency, sources said.

As part of this exercise, public sector banks plan to close or rationalise about 70 overseas operations during the current fiscal, sources said.

Public sector banks (PSBs) closed down 35 foreign operations last year.

According to the data, 159 branches of PSBs are operating in foreign countries, of which 41 branches were in losses in 2016-17.

The country's largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) led the pack with nine of its overseas branches in the red. It was followed by Bank of India and Bank of Baroda with eight and seven branches, respectively.

As on January 31, 2018, PSBs had about 165 overseas branches, besides subsidiaries, joint ventures and representative offices.

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State Bank of India has the largest number of overseas branches (52) followed by Bank of Baroda (50) and Bank of India (29). The state-owned banks have the largest number of branches in the UK (32) followed by Hong Kong and the UAE (13 each) and Singapore (12).

According to the banking sector agenda, approved at the PSB Manthan November last year, banks have to undertake rationalisation of overseas operations for cost efficiencies and synergies in overseas markets, based on competitive strength and viability, and a differentiated banking strategy to leverage bank's competitive advantage, which may include branch network rationalisation for a strong regional connect.

All PSBs such as Allahabad Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Canara Bank, IDBI Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Punjab National Bank, State Bank of India, and Union Bank of India that have foreign branches have jointly taken the initiative to prepare a note in mutual consultation for rationalisation of their foreign branches.

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