* Russia's capital outflow seen around $70 bln in Q1
* If outflows hit $100 bln, growth could be zero - Sberbank
(Adds quotes, background, details about SMP, Bank Rossiya)
By Oksana Kobzeva
MOSCOW, March 24 Russia is at risk of recession
as investors pull money out of the country, with growth likely
to evaporate if capital outflows reach $100 billion, the head of
its largest bank, state-owned Sberbank, said on
Capital has fled Russia, with stocks and the rouble sliding
following Moscow's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine and western
sanctions against Russian individuals. Analysts at Goldman Sachs
recently predicted capital outflows for this year could reach
$130 billion, or double 2013 levels.
"The present situation has a negative impact on the economy
worldwide, both in Russia and in Europe," Sberbank CEO German
Gref said at a press briefing after a supervisory board meeting.
Gref said the risk of recession "unfortunately exists,"
though Sberbank was not reviewing its business plan in light of
He also said the bank was not leaving Ukraine, where it has
exposure of 130 billion roubles ($4 billion) - or less than 1
percent of its balance sheet.
Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev recently said
capital flight from Russia in January and February totalled $35
billion, Russian media reported. In January-March, the outflow
is estimated at $65-70 billion, Deputy Economy Minister Andrei
Klepach said on Monday.
The dollar-denominated RTS stock index is down 21
percent this year, while the rouble is down 10 percent
against the dollar.
Some analysts have said steps Russia has taken to prevent
the rouble from falling more steeply - by for example raising
interest rates and spending billions in reserves to support the
currency - could push the country into recession.
If East-West tensions persist, that could further deter
foreign investment, perpetuate economic stagnation and perhaps
ultimately undermine Russia's own political stability, they have
Concerns about the crisis over Ukraine have spread across
Europe, where one analyst reported customers being "very, very
scared ... about political matters."
"I have experienced huge concern in all the European
companies I have been in contact with - both economic concern
and about what happens next, regarding sanctions and
retaliation," said Danske Bank chief analyst Lars Christensen.
The sanctions have also directly impacted Russian banks SMP
and Bank Rossiya.
Washington's sanctions targeted 20 Russians close to
President Vladimir Putin, including Boris Rotenberg and his
older brother Arkady, the co-owners of SMP Bank, while St
Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya was sanctioned alongside its
chairman and largest shareholder Yuri Kovalchuk.
SMP said on Monday that around 9 billion roubles ($248
million) had been withdrawn by depositors since the sanctions
were imposed against its shareholders, while Bank Rossiya asked
its clients to refrain from making foreign currency payments to
accounts at the bank due to the U.S. sanctions.
(Reporting by Oksana Kobzeva in Moscow, additional reporting by
Annabella Pultz Nielsen in Copenhagen; Writing by Megan Davies;
Editing by Mark Potter)