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 Finance - Commercial Banking Sector: MCB Head Office at Port Louis in Mauritius.Mauritius has a long tradition of commercial banking dating back to 1812, that is, just after the British took over from the French. As at 30th December 2003, the domestic commercial banking sector in Mauritius comprised of 10 Category 1 banks, made up of five local banks, four branches of foreign banks and one foreign owned bank incorporated locally (Please refer to Directory Listing in Appendix). All banks operating locally must abide by the Code of Banking Practice, whereby banks are expected to act fairly in their dealings with customers.

The 10 Category 1 banks operated 145 branches, 11 counters, 1 mobile van and 257 Automated Teller Machines (ATM), and employed 3,467 people at the end of June 2003.

The largest Mauritian bank, i.e., Mauritius Commercial Bank Ltd was established in 1838 and the second largest is the State Bank of Mauritius. Both banks are among the 10 largest banks in Africa. New Cooperative Bank ltd was officially inaugurated on 9 August 2002. Banque Nationale de Paris Intercontinentale (BNPI) applied for permission from the Bank of Mauritius for the surrender of its Category 1 and Category 2 banking licences under the provisions of section 7(2) of the banking act as it wished to dispose of its banking business to Barclays Bank PLC. It should be noted that a new Category 1 Bank namely, "La Banque des Mascareignes" which is part of the French `Caisse D'Epargne' group, obtained its license from the Bank of Mauritius in January 2004 therefore bringing the total number of Category 1 Banks to 11.

Besides traditional banking facilities, several Category 1 banks offer card-based payment services such as credit and debit cards, and direct debits. Other facilities such as phone banking, home banking, internet banking and PC banking are also provided by some banks. Customers have been making increasing use of the upgraded technology infrastructure. The number of customers making use of internet banking rose significantly from 6,558 at the end of June 2002 to 9,803 at the end of June 2003 while the number of customers using phone banking registered a slight increase from 72,575 to 72,858 over the same period.

Between end-June 2002 and end-June 2003, total assets of Category 1 banks rose by Rs 19,880 million, from Is 134, 680 million to Rs 154,560 million, or 14,8%, higher than the rise of 13% registered in 2001-02. Foreign of Category 1 banks rose by Rs 1,484 million, or 11.2%, from Rs 13,266 million at the end of June 2002 to Rs 14.750 million at the end of June 2003. Total deposits with Category 1 banks went up by Rs 12, 021, from Rs 104,275 million at end of June 2002 to Rs 116, 296 million at the end of June 2003, or 11.5% compared to an increase of 12.9% al 2001-2002.

Banking hours are as follows:
9.15 - 15.15 Monday to Friday
9.15 - 11.15 Saturday

However the opening hours for some banks are as follows:
9.00 - 15.15 Monday to Thursday
9.00 - 17.15 Friday

Global Business Banking Sector
There are currently 12 banks holding Category 2 Banking Licence operating in the global business banking sector. (Please refer to Directory Listing in Appendix). Category 2 banking
encompasses banking business and investment banking business conducted in currencies other than the Mauritian Rupee. Services such as fund administration, custodial services, trusteeship, international portfolio management, money market and other treasury operations may be undertaken by Category 2 banks.

For prudential reasons, the Bank of Mauritius demands that certain requirements be satisfied by Category 2 banks, namely:

The maintenance of a minimum capital or paid-up capital of at least Rs 100 million (approx. US$ 3.6 million) which may not be domiciled in Mauritius -(this capital may be kept in freely convertible currency and used for `global business' banking business including transactions with the head office, other branches, or the shareholders).

A certain level of net free assets to be determined by the Bank of Mauritius after discussion with each Category 2 bank.

Liquid assets comprising balances with foreign banks and freely tradable securities may be held as a percentage of deposits and other liabilities as determined by the bank of Mauritius from time to time.

A Category 2 bank may be established as a branch, or locally incorporated subsidiary, or a joint venture.

Category 2 banks are subject to tax in the same way and enjoy the same fiscal incentives and exemptions as Category Global Business Companies.

The asset base of category 2 banks continued to expand during 2002-2003, albeit at a lower pace of 8.4% compared to the 14% growth rate in 2001-2002. Total assets increased by US$ 369 million from US$ 4,320 million as at end-June 2002 to US$ 4,689 million as at end-June 2003.

Loans and advances to non-bank customers, the main asset item of Category 2 banks, went up significantly by US$ 374 million, or 18.5%, from US$2,024 million as at end-June 2002 to US$ 2,398 million as at end-June 2003 and accounted for 51.1% of total assets.