Policy Challenge - Strengthening the Kazakhstan's Banking Sector
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Policy Challenge - Strengthening the Kazakhstan's Banking Sector

By Nurlan Sakuov and Dominik Peschel
The excerpt is taken from Asian Development Outlook 2017: 
Transcending the Middle-income Challenge

Image Attribute: Bayterek is a monument and observation tower in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan./ Source: Wikimedia Commons

Image Attribute: Bayterek is a monument and observation tower in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan./ Source: Wikimedia Commons

Kazakhstan’s economic slowdown has brought renewed attention to its troubled banking sector, which has yet to recover from the global financial crisis of 2008–2009. The central bank reported nonperforming loans (NPLs) at only 6.7% of all loans as of 1 January 2017. However, this figure simply aggregates NPLs reported by individual banks, which may differ in how they identify and report impaired loans. Banks need not report NPLs on a consolidated basis, and some have moved troubled loans off their balance sheets. Further, NPL counts exclude loans restructured by “evergreening,” or adding unpaid principal and interest to loan balances rather than declaring the loans delinquent.

The central bank and the government increasingly recognize that a significant share of the massive total of restructured loans may be unrecoverable. In 2016, Moody’s estimated NPLs including restructured loans at 37%, and Standard & Poor’s estimated them in the range of 25%–30%. Moreover, poor portfolio quality has undermined banks’ profitability and liquidity. In 2016, the central bank provided more than $1 billion in liquidity support to Kazkommerzbank (KKB), the country’s largest bank in asset terms, to facilitate its acquisition of Bank Turan Alem, 90% of whose assets are troubled.

The government has supported the banking sector through subsidized loans from the budget, Kazakhstan’s Problem Loans Fund, and a national pension fund, as well as by placing government and public enterprise deposits in selected financial institutions at low-interest rates. It also provided more than $5 billion from the sovereign wealth fund during 2009–2015 to purchase bank shares, refinance mortgage loans, and provide loans to the private sector.

The central bank postponed until 2017 introducing more stringent capital adequacy requirements because of the deteriorating business environment for banks and the slowdown in the economy. Though average capitalization in the banking sector in terms of core capital (Tier I) stood at 14.3% in 2016, some banks are expected to fall below current capital adequacy requirements if needed to write off NPLs. The central bank also eased its timetable for adopting Basel III regulatory standards, moving the deadline for full compliance from 2019 to 2021. Thus, banks were not required in 2016 to increase capital adequacy ratios or meet international standards for consolidated bank reporting.

Unresolved asset quality problems prompted the authorities in February 2017 to inject $3.4 billion into the Problem Loans Fund, expanding the 2017 Republican budget by 24%. The transfer is expected to enable the restructuring of KKB by allowing the fund to purchase the NPLs held by the KKB subsidiary Bank Turan Alem, which has most of the NPLs in the banking system. The fund’s acquisition of these NPLs would enable Halyk Bank, Kazakhstan’s second-largest bank, to purchase the remaining KKB assets and become the country’s largest bank. Separately, Tsesna Bank, Kazakhstan’s third-largest financial institution, aims to purchase an estimated 41.8% of Bank CenterCredit, Kazakhstan’s fifth-largest bank, from Kookmin Bank of the Republic of Korea. In sum, proposed acquisitions would leave Kazakhstan’s top three banks holding about 53% of bank assets in the country.

Early in 2017, the central bank moved to undertake asset quality reviews of systemically important banks through an international firm using international standards, and then to enforce measures to either restore banks’ solvency or proceed with their liquidation. Moreover, the central bank is expected to begin stress-testing this year, using the exercise to identify which banks need additional capital and how much, as well as to inform an assessment of their handling of impaired loans and provisioning practices, and ultimately improve it.

Although the government has spent significant amounts on resolving problem loans and bank recapitalization, many banks remain undercapitalized. Moreover, further accumulation of NPLs can be expected in view of the weak economy. The high share of real estate loans in NPLs is a problem because collateral is not regularly revalued and is often overstated. In addition, banks are not allowed to transfer NPLs collateralized with real estate, the usual collateral, to the Problem Loans Fund. Broadening the fund mandate to include such assets is therefore important.

On top of the measures already taken, the authorities would do well to relax bank secrecy rules on loans to allow more precise loan appraisals and better assessment of the likelihood of future loan difficulties and to use international standards when conducting asset quality reviews. Also helpful would be greater clarity about regulatory plans as part of a broader effort to strengthen monetary policy by improving central bank transparency and communication with the public and financial markets.

Publication Details:

This is an excerpt taken from a report chapter written by Nurlan Sakuov, consultant, Kazakhstan Resident Mission, ADB, Astana, and Dominik Peschel of the Central and West Asia Department, ADB, Manila for ASIAN DEVELOPMENT OUTLOOK 2017 Transcending the Middle-income Challenge.(p 130-131)  © Asian Development Bank [2017]. Available under a CC BY 3.0 IGO license.  Download the report - https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/237761/ado-2017.pdf

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of ADB or its Board of Governors or the governments they represent. ADB does not endorse this work or guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this publication and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use.