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Feb 25 (Reuters) - (The following statement was released by the rating agency)
Russian banks’ significant exposures to Ukraine may materially impact the solvency of some institutions if borrowers suffer as a result of the current heightened political and economic stress, Fitch Ratings says. But the most vulnerable banks have support-driven ratings, which are unlikely to change unless there is evidence of a reduced probability of support from the Russian government.
Russian banks’ total exposures to Ukraine are substantial at around USD28bn, according to President Putin’s statement in November 2013. We estimate Russian state-related banks hold the bulk of this, with approximately half at their Ukrainian subsidiaries (which are to a large degree parent-funded) and half booked directly on parent banks’ balance sheets or at other group entities. Risks relate primarily to loans to local corporates (more than a half of the total exposure), and to Russian and Ukrainian businessmen who have borrowed funds for the acquisition of Ukrainian assets (about 25%). We believe these are exposed to both economic and political risks in Ukraine, including recession, potential challenges to the ownership of pledged assets, and the devaluation of the hryvna, since around 60% of lending is done in foreign currency. Local retail loan books (less than 5%) and Ukrainian sovereign exposures of Russian banks are limited.
We estimate that the most exposed banks (relative to equity) are Vnesheconombank (VEB, 74%), Gazprombank (about 40%) and VTB (at least 14%). Sberbank (8%) and Alfa Bank (3%) are less vulnerable.
VEB’s Ukrainian subsidiary has assets of about USD5bn (equal to 29% of parent equity), and there are also corporate loans booked on VEB’s balance sheet, including a large M&A finance transaction.
Gazprombank has the second largest exposure relative to its capital, despite not having a local subsidiary. This comprises a loan to Naftogaz (around 15% of capital), the national oil and gas company of Ukraine, secured on payments from Russia’s Gazprom which partially mitigates the risks, and other corporate exposures, including acquisition financing.
VTB’s risks are mainly from its local subsidiary (assets of about USD3bn, equal to 11% of parent equity), although it has also said it was directly exposed to the Ukrainian sovereign for around RUB20bn (USD0.7bn) at end-2013. VTB’s direct exposure to local corporates, if any, is not disclosed publicly.
For Sberbank the potential problem is manageable because the local subsidiary is relatively small (about USD4bn, or 7% of parent equity) and there is limited direct exposure to local corporates.
Alfa Bank is the least exposed. Loans to Ukrainian corporates amounted to only USD120m at 20 February 2014. Alfa Bank (Ukraine), a sister bank with USD3bn of assets (excluding foreign interbank and related party loans) is primarily locally funded, so poses limited contingent risks.