• ACI Russia

08/18/1998 17:56:47 Russia c.bank says to protect individuals' deposits

By Julie Tolkacheva MOSCOW, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Russia's central bank on Tuesday promised to support the 12 biggest local commercial banks, which hold the most individual deposits, with a credit line worth about $100 million. "We on our side will do our best to protect individual depositors of the banks," Deputy Central Bank Chairman Denis Kiselyov told reporters. "We shall support the banks by extending to the pool of the banks a specifically limited amount approved by the board of directors of the central bank. We are talking about a temporary support of around 700 million roubles ($100 million)." But Kiselyov did not rule out bank failures or bankruptcies, saying no central bank could guarantee against this. "We are going to push out of the system banks that are insufficiently capitalised," he said, adding that the central bank considered around 400 banks as undercapitalised. Russia has about 1,600 commercial banks. The Russian banking system has been dealt a blow by the government's decision to give up its policy of a smooth rouble depreciation against the dollar by widening significantly the band within which it allows the rouble to be traded. Some banks face default on their foreign credit obligations, but the government and central bank decided to impose a 90-day obligatory moratorium on some foreign debt repayments. The moratorium does not cover interest payments and credits from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Kiselyov said the moratorium did not cover current operations, including trade, trade financing, letters of credit financing and the like. "The main purpose is to limit over the short term period, for 90 days, the outflow of foreign exchange in the form of repayment of principal, repayment and margin calls on repo and foreign exchange forward operations," he said. Kiselyov said banks would have had to repay about $1 billion if not for the moratorium. The 12 biggest Russian banks -- Sberbank <SBER.RTS>, MENATEP <MNTP.MM>, Inkombank <IKMBy.BE>, Vneshtorgbank, Vneshekonombank, Alfa Bank, UNEXIM Bank, Rossiisky Kredit, SBS-Agro, National Reserve Bank and Bank of Moscow -- created a payment pool in which banks plan to help each other meet obligations to individuals. Russians scrambled to exchange roubles for dollars and to withdraw cash from their dollar accounts, but the move is not yet a panic run on the banks. "We are keeping in mind this possibility and doing our best to avoid it," he said. Kiselyov said Russia's biggest, state-owned savings bank, Sberbank, had enough liquidity to meet any extraordinary demand for dollars or roubles. "We have no indication, we are not receiving information about any branch of Sberbank refusing or delaying payments to individuals, to depositors," he said, adding that there had been no significant outflow of deposits either. Kiselyov said the eight biggest Russian banks held over one billion roubles of individual deposits each with Sberbank accounting for 70 percent of the combined amount. The government is now preparing another measure which Kiselyov said could hit banks -- an obligatory swap of short- term treasury bills for longer-dated securities. The government will announce details of the swap on Wednesday. Kiselyov said the central bank was worried that as a result of the exchange many local banks would face a maturities mismatch. ((Moscow Newsroom, +7095 941-8520 moscow.newsroom@reuters.com)) ($= 6.8850 roubles)

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