March 15, 2019 / 11:40 AM / a month ago

Russia's private Alfa Bank bets on mortgages to grow - CFO

* Alfa is Russia’s fifth biggest bank overall by assets

* Slow economy limits scope for new corporate business

* Bank could free up funds to lend if domestic rating used

By Tatiana Voronova and Katya Golubkova

MOSCOW, March 15 (Reuters) - Alfa Bank, Russia’s top private lender, aims to boost mortgage lending due to tough competition with state banks to win new corporate business in a slow growing economy, the chief financial officer said.

Russia’s fifth biggest bank overall by assets, standing at about 3 trillion roubles ($46 billion), is co-owned by Russian billionaires, including Mikhail Fridman and German Khan, former owners of oil firm TNK-BP that is now part of Rosneft.

“Given the macroeconomic environment ... we do not expect major growth in corporate lending in coming years, as Alfa Bank is already working with almost all the biggest companies in the country,” Chief Financial Officer Alexey Chukhlov told Reuters.

Alfa’s corporate loan book grew 1.4 percent in 2018 but retail lending, including mortgages, climbed 37.7 percent. In retail, Alfa has focussed on lending to Russia’s middle class and has a strong position in the credit card market.

Alfa started offering mortgage loans in 2017 and was among the top 10 biggest home loan lenders last year in a market dominated by top state banks Sberbank and VTB .

Alfa, which aims to be in the top six home-loan providers in 2019, faces stiff competition in the market, in which state development bank VEB also plans to expand. Alfa aims to cut costs and speed up approvals by making its operations paper-free.

Alfa bought a mortgage loan portfolio at the end of 2017, Chukhlov said, without giving the value or naming the seller. He said the bank was ready for further deals in future.

The bank raised 10 billion roubles ($153 million) in January via a Eurobond issue, priced at 9.35 percent, saying it would use the funds to expand its loan portfolio.

Alfa, whose mortgage loan rates start from 10 percent, has said it might issue more rouble Eurobonds this year.

Chukhlov said Alfa would have more funds available to lend if talks between banks and the central bank allowed the institutions to use domestic credit ratings to calculate provisions rather than international ratings.

Using domestic ratings to assess risk would require lower provisioning against lending.

$1 = 65.4050 roubles Writing by Katya Golubkova Editing by Edmund Blair

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