Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev relatives mull reducing share in major bank
While any sale may have been long planned, the family may be under pressure to reduce its presence in Kazakhstan’s financial sector.
A company controlled by the billionaire daughter and son-in-law of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev is considering reducing its share in Kazakhstan’s largest bank.
The news sparked chatter about whether this is a response to Astana’s efforts to curb the sway Nazarbayev’s relatives have over Kazakhstan’s economy, after the ex-president was discredited by fatal violence that broke out in January 2022.
But ALMEX, the company owned by Dinara Kulibayeva, Nazarbayev’s middle daughter, and her husband Timur Kulibayev, insists its priority has long been to make Halyk Bank shares more readily available to eager investors.
It is considering selling off a minority interest but retaining control by holding on to at least 51 percent of shares, according to media reports.
The company pointed out that it had publicly said it was “ready to examine options to increase the liquidity of Halyk Bank shares” in 2019, owing to “multiple appeals by the international investment community.”
“That includes the option of the partial disposal of shares belonging to ALMEX in small packages on the stock market, while retaining a controlling interest,” the company told Inbusiness.kz.
The bank trades on the London Stock Exchange and on Kazakhstan’s two stock markets, the Astana International Exchange and the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE).
“It is very important to note that any options will be examined taking into account a favorable market environment. As the major shareholder, we are interested in increasing the liquidity of the shares and increasing the capitalization of Halyk Bank,” ALMEX added.
Halyk Bank’s market capitalization stands at $2.9 billion, according to KASE.
ALMEX controls a 69.5 percent stake, and The Bank of New York (now BNY Mellon) owns 28.5 percent, according to the stock exchange data.
While any reduction in the Kulibayevs’ share may have been long planned, if it goes ahead it will have the effect of reducing the presence of the Nazarbayev family in Kazakhstan’s financial sector.
The family has been under pressure following last year’s “Bloody January” violence, owing to suspicions – widely voiced in Kazakhstan but not officially confirmed – that some family members were involved in stoking the unrest, which left 238 people dead.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the president, has pledged to end the corruption and cronyism that characterized Nazarbayev’s rule.
Those efforts have seen some family members lose control over businesses, including Aliya Nazarbayeva, the ex-president’s youngest daughter, and Bolat Nazarbayev, his brother.
But the Kulibayevs’ sprawling business empire, spanning the oil and gas industry as well as the financial sector, has remained largely untouched. (So have the business interests of Dariga Nazarbayeva, the former president’s eldest daughter, and her son Nurali Aliyev, whom Forbes Kazakhstan says are worth $584 million and $263 million respectively.)
Kulibayev did, however, cede to the state his 49 percent stake in oil trader Petrosun last summer, in circumstances that neither he nor the government explained.
The Kulibayevs are jointly worth almost $8 billion, according to the Forbes international rich list, which puts their wealth at $3.9 billion each.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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