Russian capital flight in five-fold fall to $5.9bn between January and February y/y

Russian capital flight in five-fold fall to $5.9bn between January and February y/y
Russian Capital flight: 2000-2015
By bne IntelliNews March 11, 2016

The net outflow of capital from Russia tumbled in January-February of this year, falling to $5.9bn, a fifth of the $29.2bn that left in the same period a year earlier, according to the Central Bank of Russia (CBR).

Capital flight started easing dramatically in 2014 after a peak in 2014 during the worst of the Ukraine conflict and is now approaching "normal" levels. "Only" $56.7bn left the country in 2015 compared to $133bn that left in 2014 and even the 2015 level was significantly down on official forecasts for the year made at the start of the year.

Around $50bn leaves the country every year as the Russian national accounts unusually include reinvestment by Russian companies into their foreign assets as "capital flight" and Russian companies have invested heavily in what is known as the "near abroad", or the neighbouring former Soviet states.

At the same time, the financial sanctions imposed on select Russian companies, mostly connected to the state, have cut all Russian entities off from the international financial markets and started a process of deleveraging that is now coming to an end as companies pay down their foreign debt.

The only time Russia saw a net inflow of capital was during the boom years of 2006 and 2007 when Russian oligarchs briefly began bring capital flight money home to invest into the domestic economy. However, last year also briefly saw a net inflow of $5.3bn in the third quarter of 2015 against a net outflow of $7.4bn in the same period in 2014.

The chairperson of the CBR Elvira Nabiullina said in February that the outflow of capital from Russia in 2016 could fall to $30bn-$40bn if oil prices were in the range of $25-$35 per barrel. Oil prices fell to a low of $27.88 a barrel in January 2016, the lowest since 2003, but have more recently recovered to touch $40 on March 7.

Nabiullina confirmed the main driver of falling capital flight is corporate deleveraging and falling levels of foreign corporate debt.

The CBR predicted at the end of last year that capital flight would end 2016 at $53bn.

According to the regulator, the net outflow of capital from Russian banks and companies amounted to $56.9bn in 2015, which is 2.7 times less than in 2014 ($153bn).

Private-sector net capital outflows averaged $57bn annually over 2009-2013 and increased to $153bn in 2014. However, these outflows totalled $45bn in the first three quarters of 2015, compared with $77bn over the same period in 2014.