OF LATE Indian bankers have felt an unfamiliar sensation: optimism. A 1.3trn-rupees ($21bn) bail-out from the government seemed to have cleaned up the bad lending decisions of years gone by. A new bankruptcy law gave them an edge in long-standing battles with recalcitrant borrowers. It seemed a few Indian companies, having for years eschewed fresh investment, might even start borrowing again.
This week woes linked to mismanagement at India’s three biggest partially state-owned lenders plunged the bankers back to their habitual gloom. On February 14th Punjab National Bank (PNB) announced it was investigating a fraud worth 114bn rupees, equivalent to about a third of its market capitalisation. A few days earlier the State Bank of India (SBI) unveiled its first quarterly loss since 1999. And Bank of Baroda has hastily announced the closure of its South African operation, accused of having shady business associations there.