* Banks' loan portfolio grew in 2012
* C. bank has no immediate plans to revise refinancing rate
(Adds details, background)
By Mariya Gordeyeva
ALMATY, Jan 9 Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest
economy, expects gross domestic product to expand by 5 to 6
percent this year, National Bank Governor Grigory Marchenko said
Deputy Prime Minister Kairat Kelimbetov said last month that
the oil-fuelled economy was expected to grow by at least 5
percent in 2012. Kazakhstan's GDP increased by 7.5 percent in
Quoting preliminary central bank data, Marchenko told a news
conference that the loan portfolio of Kazakhstan's banking
sector had expanded by 12.3 percent last year.
Marchenko, in his second term as governor, told Reuters in
an interview in November that local banks could expand lending
by up to 15 percent in 2013 as the economy grows but it will
take a year before a distressed asset fund weeds out bad loans
inherited by the sector from the global financial crisis.
Inflation in Kazakhstan, a major exporter of industrial
metals and grain, slowed to 6.0 percent last year from 7.4
percent in 2011, hitting the bottom end of the official 6-8
A slowdown in inflation in 2012 prompted the central bank to
cut its key refinancing rate on four separate occasions since
February. It has been at a historic low of 5.5 percent since
"We have no immediate plans to revise the refinancing rate,"
Ratings agency Fitch raised its view of Kazakhstan's credit
profile on Nov. 20 in recognition of the country's sovereign
balance sheet and initial efforts to cleanse bad debts from its
The BBB+ long-term foreign currency issuer rating, with a
stable outlook, pushed Kazakhstan firmly into investment grade
territory and a notch above its neighbour Russia.
Kazakhstan's state-guaranteed debt totalled $5.1 billion as
of Sept. 30, 2012, or just 4 percent of the country's gross
external debt of $134.9 billion, according to central bank data
published on Wednesday.
Kazakhstan has saved $57.8 billion in the National Fund
replenished by windfall oil export revenues, which may cushion
knock-on effects of potential crises.
The country's total international reserves of $85.5 billion
stand at about 40 percent of its annual GDP.
(Reporting by Mariya Gordeyeva; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov;
Editing by Peter Cooney)