Kazakhstan: State Bailing Out Yet Another Ailing Bank
The government in Kazakhstan is mulling a generous rescue plan for a collapsing bank that the president only days ago described as being run by “thieves.”
Under the solution presented on November 7, the National Bank will enlist copper miner Kazakhmys to recapitalize RBK Bank to the tune of 160 billion tenge ($480 million). The regulator is also studying a request from the bank to inject a further 240 billion tenge ($720 million).
National Bank chairman Daniyar Akishev said that in a parallel operation, 600 billion tenge ($1.8 billion) in bad debts at RBK will be transferred to the books of a specially created vehicle. It is not yet clear who is to administer or fund that entity.
The crisis at the bank had reached critical point in recent weeks with thousands of customers complaining of being unable to withdraw their savings. Drafting a state-funded lifeline is something of a retreat on the hard line earlier adopted by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who indicated last week that he wanted the bank’s shareholders to restore the institution to health on their own.
“Thieves should go to jail, which is where they will be sent,” Nazarbayev said on November 3 at a congress of the ruling Nur Otan party, referring to RBK shareholders. “Let us force them to return the money and stabilize the operations at this bank.”
Akishev said that as soon as the recapitalization process is completed, RBK will begin to pay out to its most socially vulnerable clients, as well as small- and mid-scale depositors. The regulator has said that in addition to bailing the bank out, it will investigate which credit-granting policies led RBK to this point and that law enforcement authorities will be involved if necessary.
Forbes.kz has reported that as of October 1, RBK held $1.7 billion in deposits and had loan portfolio worth $2.1 billion.
RBK’s troubles have been mounting for months, as Sputnik news agency has reported. The volume of customer deposits shrunk by 192 billion tenge ($574 million) in the first eight months of 2017 alone. At the end of August, S&P Global Ratings dropped the bank’s rating score from B-/B to CCC+/C.
RBK is only the latest of a growing string of Kazakhstani bank to be saved from total collapse. In March, the government allocated $7.5 billion to bail out Kazkommertsbank, the country’s largest lender. Four more banks — ATF Bank, Eurasian Bank, Tsesnabank and Bank CenterCredit — jointly received a $1.2 billion cash injection in October.
The fate at another stricken bank illustrates how regulators are struggling to consistently enforce even vaguely responsible credit policies.
On November 6, the National Bank withdrew the license of Delta Bank, citing the lender’s poor record on assessing credit risk and its near-insolvent status. The deputy chairman of the National Bank, Oleg Smolyakov, said that a staggering 99.7 percent of Delta Bank’s 315 billion tenge ($944 million) loan portfolio was in arrears. The bank in turn owes its depositors and creditors almost 80 billion tenge ($240 million).
Almaz Kumenov is an Almaty-based journalist.