Category Archives: Russian banking

6/7/18: Central Bank of Russia Injects Capital in Three Lenders, Continues Sector Restrcturing

Reuters reported ( on Central Bank of Russia (CBR) setting up a 'bad bank' to resolve non-performing assets in three medium- large-sized banks that CBR controls. In 2016, the CBR took over control over three medium- large-sized banks, Otkritie, B&N Bank and Promsvyazbank. Last month, the CBR announced an injection of RB 42.7 billion of funds to recapitalise Otkritie with funds earmarked to cover losses in Otkritie's pension fund.  Most Bank received RB37.1 billion in new capital. The CBR also deposited RB 174.2 billion (USD2.78 billion) in three banks (RB63.3 billion of which went to Otkritie) on a 3-5 years termed deposit basis.

The funds will be used to reorganise banks operations and shift non-performing and high risk assets to a Trust Bank-based 'bad bank' which will operate as an asset management company.

After divesting bad loans, Otkritie is expected to be sold back to private investors.

CBR's total exposure to troubled banks is now at RB 227 billion (USD3.5 billion), with CBR having spent RB 760 billion (USD 12 billion) on its overall campaign to recapitalise troubled lenders. CBR holds RB 1.3 trillion (USD30 billion) on deposit with lenders it controls.

As BOFIT note: "...the CBR to date has used over 45 billion USD (about 3% of 2017 GDP) in supporting the three banks that it took over last year. Some of this amount, however, should be recovered when assets in banks acquired by the CBR are sold off as well as in the planned privatisations of the banks." At the beginning of June, Otkritie stated that the bank aims to float a 15-20% stake in 2021. The bank said t's target for pricing will be "at least 1.3 times the capital the bank has at the end of 2020". Otkritie targets return on equity of 18% in 2020, and so far, in the first five months of 2018, the bank made RB 5.4 billion in net profit, per CBR.

Otkritie ranked sixth largest bank in Central and Eastern Europe by capitalisation by The Banker in 2017 prior to nationalisation. Following nationalisation, Otkritie ranked 16th in CEE, having lost some USD2.4 billion in capital.

Another lender, Sovetsky bank from Saint Petersburg lost its license on July 3. The bank gas been in trouble since February 2012 when the CBR approved its first plans for restructuring. In February 2018, the bank was in a "temporary administration" through the Banking Sector Consolidation Fund. The latest rumours suggest that Sovetsky deposits and loans assets will retransferred to another lender.  Sovetsky was under original administration by another lender, Tatfondbank, from March 2016, until Tatfondbank collapsed in March 2017 (official CBR statement, and see this account of criminal activity at the Tatfondbank: and Tatfondbank's tangible connection to Ireland's IFSC was covered here:

Overall, CBR have done as good a job of trying to clean up Russian banking sector mess, as feasible, with criminal proceedings underway against a range of former investors and executives. The cost of the CBR-led resolution and restructuring actions has been rather hefty, but the overall outrun has been some moderate strengthening of the sector, hampered by the tough trading conditions for Russian banking sector as a whole. A range of U.S. and European sanctions against Russian financial institutions and, more importantly, constant threat of more sanctions to come have led to higher funding costs, more acute risks profiles, lack of international assets diversification, and even payments problems, all of which reduce the banking sector ability to recover low quality and non-performing assets. The CBR has zero control over these factors.

Russia currently has 6 out of top 10 banks in CEE, according to The Banker rankings:


These banks are systemic to the Russian economy, and only the U.S. sabre rattling is holding them back from being systemic in the broader CEE region. This is a shame, because opening up a banking channel to Russian economy greater integration into the global financial flows is a much more important bet on the future of democratisation and normalisation in Russia than any sanctions Washington can dream up.

As an aside, new developments in the now infamous Danske Bank case of laundering 'blood money' from Russia, relating to the Magnitzky case were reported this week in the EUObserver:

10/1/16: Russian Banks: Licenses Cancellations Galore

Why Russian Central Bank’s chief Elvira Nabiullina deserves title of the best central banker she got in 2015? Why, because she sticks to her stated objectives and goes on even in challenging conditions.

When Nabiullina came to office, Russian banking system was besieged by underperforming and weak banks - mostly at the bottom of banking sector rankings, but with some at the very top too (see ongoing VEB saga here And she promised a thorough clean up of the sector. I wrote about that before (see and

But times have been tough for such reforms, amidst credit tightening, rising arrears and economic crisis. Again, majority of the problems are within the lower tier banks, but numbers of loss-making institutions has been climbing over 2015. January-November 2015 data shows that almost 30% of Russian banks are running operating losses and overdue loans have risen by nearly 50% to RUB2.63 trillion. Still, this constitutes less than 7 percent of total credit outstanding. Stressed (but not necessarily overdue) loans rose from 7 percent of total credit in January 2015 to 8 percent at the end of December 2015. Notably, both stressed and overdue loans numbers are surprisingly low. And on another positive side, bank’s own capital to assets ratio averaged 13 percent. The aggregate numbers conceal quite some variation within the banking sector, as noted by Bofit: “At the beginning of November, 129 banks had equity ratios below 12%. Large deficiencies in calculating the capital have come to light in several bank insolvencies.”

Amidst this toughening of trading conditions, CBR continued to push our weaker banks from the market. Over 2015, 93 banks lost their licenses, almost the same number as in 18 months prior with just 740 banks left trading the market as of December 2015. As the result, banking sector concentration rose, with 20 largest banks now holding 75 percent share of the market by assets. In January-October 2015, some 600,000 depositors in Russian banks were moved from banks losing licenses to functioning banks, per report here.

Chart from Bofit illustrates the trends in terms of banking licenses revoked:

Overall, this is good news. Russian banking system evolved - prior to 2009 - into a trilateral system of banks, including strong larger (universal) banks, medium-sized specialist and foreign banks with retail exposures, weak and sizeable fringe of smaller institutions, often linked to industrial holding companies. Aside from VEB - which officially is not a bank - larger banks are operating in tough conditions, but remain relatively robust. Smaller banks, however, having relied in previous years on higher risk consumer credit and holding, often, lower quality capital, have been impacted by the crisis and by the lack of liquidity. Shutting these operations down and consolidating the smaller banks' fringe is something that Russian needs anyway. 

23/12/15: Vnesheconombank: where things stay ugly

As reported by BOFIT, Russia’s 4th largest and state-owned Vnesheconombank  (VEB Group which technically is not a bank, but a development bank and an owner of a number of banks, so as such VEB is not subject to CBR supervision) requires estimated funding supports at EUR15–20 billion “to cover at least the next few years”.  Per Bloomberg, VEB has been seeking USD23 billion “to support long-term growth and pay off the upcoming loan” (data as of November 23). VEB total assets in Russia amount to ca EUR45 billion, which, per BOFIT, “would make VEB Russia’s fourth largest bank with holdings that correspond to about 4 % of the banking sector’s total assets”. Overall, VEB holds 2.8 trillion Rubles in loans assets and around 1 trillion Rubles in other assets.

To-date, VEB received EUR8 billion in deposits from the National Welfare Fund and about EUR500 million in other monies (most of which came from the Central Bank’s 2014 profits).

Per both, Bloomberg and BOFIT: VEB has been a major lender behind Sochi Winter Olympics 2014. New lending increased total loans held by the bank by some 25% in Ruble terms in 2013 before doubling loans in 2014. VEB started aggressive loans expansion in 2007 since when its assets base grew almost 10-fold. Over 2015, bank-held loans posted some serious deterioration in quality forcing bank to set aside significant reserves to cover potential losses. Per Reuters report, “S&P estimates some 500 billion roubles of VEB's loans were directed by the government and are therefore regarded as relatively risky. While the huge investments made in Sochi have generated public discussion in Russia, far less attention has been given to no less massive investments VEB made in Ukraine. "That's still on their books and they keep rolling those loans over. Of course it's only a question of time before they accept losses on those assets," said S&P's Vartapetov. In an interview in December 2013, VEB Chairman Vladimir Dmitriev said the bank had via Russian investors ploughed $8 billion into Ukrainian steel plants, mainly in the Donbass region, since ravaged in a separatist conflict. He said the investment had supported 40,000 Ukrainian workers, but did not say how the Russian economy had benefited.” Overall, Russian banks’ continued presence and even growth in Ukraine - while puzzling to some external observers - can be explained by the significant role these banks play in the Ukrainian economy.

In 2014, VEB posted full year loss of USD4.5 billion / RUB250 billion and in 1H 2015 losses totalled USD1.5 billion. VEB’s Ukrainian subsidiary was one of the big drivers for these. Based on the figures, VEB posted the largest loss of any Russian company in 2014.  The top three largest loss making companies in 2014 were: Vnesheconombank, followed by the steelmaking giant Mechel (loss of 167 billion rubles) and the monopoly Russian Railways (losses of 99 billion rubles).

In addition, VEB holds some USD19.3 billion of debt maturing through 2025 (see chart from Bloomberg) with EUR9 billion of this in eurobonds:

VEB is subject to both EU and US sanctions which effectively shut VEB access to funding markets and the bank will require between EUR2.5 and 3 billion for debt servicing in 2016 alone. This week, VEB secured a five-year loan of 10 billion yuan or EUR1.4 billion from China Development Bank.

Recently, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov stated that VEB requires as much as USD20 billion in funding (ca 1.7% of Russian GDP), and that VEB is expected to sell some of its assets to fund part of the gap.

Per Bloomberg, “the finance ministry’s proposals include exchanging the lender’s Eurobonds for Russian government securities, Vedomosti reported Nov. 24. Other options on the table include a local government bond offering for 1.5 trillion rubles to recapitalize the bank, and transferring bad assets from VEB’s balance sheet to the state, according to newspaper Kommersant.”