No "massive crisis" in banking sector, assure Russian finance officials

By bne IntelliNews November 18, 2015

Russia's banking system is in good shape, with the proper level of capitalisation, access to funds, and a vigorous cull of superfluous banks underway, officials are assuring after the country's top state banker said the sector was enduring a "massive crisis".

"Implemented anti-crisis support measures have had a significant positive impact on banks and have received positive feedback, including from the IMF, as the appropriate in terms of design, size and timing," TASS news agency quoted Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseyev as saying on November 18. "Accordingly, the level of capitalisation and access to liquidity do not raise any fears," Moiseyev said. 

The situation is "in general completely under control", echoed Andrei Kostin, head of the state bank VTB, which along with Sberbank has been hoovering up clients from around 100 banks that had their licences withdrawn this year.

"I always shout that there is no crisis, there are [just] many challenges," Kostin said during the APEC summit on November 18. "Some have difficulties with capital, there is the difficulty, of course, with profit; there is a high rate of refinancing, which hurts banks," he conceded.

A day earlier Sberbank CEO German Gref said Russia is experiencing a large-scale banking crisis which is unlikely to ease any time soon.

"What we’re facing now is a massive crisis. Zero profits, growth of reserves while the Central Bank is involved with financial recovery procedure," Gref said. "The next year will not be simple either."

According to Gref, the financial recovery of banks will take several more years due to tightened requirements to capital and from the viewpoint of introducing state-of-the-art technologies, transparency and risk management.

Russia's economic growth will be close to zero in 2016, while global oil prices will be above $50 a barrel next year, Gref said, adding that the situation in the economy "will be about zero", with possible 0.5-0.6% growth next year.

Meanwhile, Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Alexei Simanovsky also refuted the crisis appraisal, saying he saw "hardly see any signs" of this.

The Russian government's anti-crisis programme that came in effect the end of 2014 proposes the allocation of RUB2.3 trillion ($35.94bn), some of which was spent on ensuring the stability of the banking system. However, RUB2.5 trillion ($37.6bn) overall has now been spent on bailing out banks alone, according to S&P's estimation. On top of that, the share of bad loans has shot up to 15% from 9.5% at the start of the year, Moody’s reported, and some consumer lenders are reporting bad loans closer to 30%.

The fast disappearance of smaller banks, especially those linked to money laundering and with questionable lending practises, was one of the effects of the programme. Almost 100 lenders have had their licenses revoked so far this year at a rate of over two a week. The overall number fell to 696 from 1,094 in January 2013, when Elvira Nabiullina was appointed to head the Central Bank of Russia (CBR).

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