* Considers restricting big firms to using Russian banks
* Seen as unlikely because of damage to investment climate
* Move is reaction to threat of western sanctions
(Changes sourcing, adds comments)
By Oksana Kobzeva and Jason Bush
MOSCOW, June 24 Russia is considering banning
state companies and other strategically important firms from
holding accounts at foreign-owned banks, a governmental source
familiar with the proposals told Reuters on Tuesday.
"Such an idea is lingering, but there is no decision about
it as yet," the source said.
Analysts doubted that the plan would be adopted, saying it
would be highly damaging for Russia's investment climate and
would face opposition from major companies.
Earlier on Tuesday Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported
that the Finance Ministry had prepared legal amendments that
would bar state companies, as well as strategically important
The paper cited an unnamed source familiar with the plans as
saying that the amendments included changes to Russia's laws on
banks, administrative violations and money laundering.
The Finance Ministry declined to comment.
Under the proposals, all state-owned companies would be
allowed to have accounts only at Russian state-owned banks, or
at privately-owned Russian banks with capital of at least 16.5
billion roubles ($483 million), Kommersant reported.
The restrictions would also apply to privately-owned
companies that were significant for Russia's defence or
security, as defined by an existing law on foreign investment in
This meant the restrictions would apply, for example, to
large commodity producers, telecoms companies and retail chains,
Maxim Osadchy, banking analyst at BKF Bank in Moscow, said
that if adopted the move would exacerbate Russian companies'
restricted access to western capital resulting from sanctions
"An iron financial curtain was raised by the West, so to
speak, and now an iron curtain for financial flows is also being
raised by the Russian side," he said.
"Two such curtains could turn the once powerful river of
foreign investment into Russia into a feeble brook, or stop it
Osadchy said it is common practice for companies that
receive loans from a foreign bank also to have deposits with the
creditor bank, which provides lenders with some security. If
foreign banks are restricted in taking deposits, it could also
reduce their appetite to lend to Russian companies.
"They will naturally reduce the supply of credit resources
because of the risks. It will be a blow to Russian borrowers,"
He doubted, however, that the proposals would be adopted,
because of opposition from major Russian companies whose
international operations could be impeded by the inability to
open accounts at foreign banks.
"Definitely this would decrease the attractiveness for
foreign investors in the banking sector, because a large part of
Russian companies are deemed strategic and this is increasingly
so," said Vladimir Osakovsky, chief Russia economist at Bank of
America Merrill Lynch.
"Let's see if it will be approved or not. I think it is
unlikely because it is a negative move from the investment
Russia has been mulling steps to reduce its vulnerability to
Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, which has raised
fears that Western countries could freeze Russian assets abroad.
However, the likelihood of tough western sanctions against
Russia appeared to be receding on Tuesday, following a rebel
ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and a request by Russia's President
Vladimir Putin to parliament to revoke its authorisation for
military intervention in the country.
(Reporting by Oxana Kobzeva and Jason Bush, additional
reporting by Darya Korsunskaya and Megan Davies; editing by
Lidia Kelly/Ruth Pitchford)