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Russian consumer bank to be under scrutiny

16 Августа 2007

Источник: Financial Times
Дата: 16.08.07
Автор: Catherine Belton


By Catherine Belton in Moscow and agencies
Published: August 16 2007 21:15 | Last updated: August 16 2007 21:15
Russian prosecutors said on Thursday that they had asked the central bank to monitor top consumer lender Russian Standard Bank’s compliance with the law on banking and the protection of consumer rights.
“The prosecutor-general’s office proposed to the central bank . . . that it introduce monitoring over Russian Standard Bank’s compliance with legislation on banking, banking activities [and] consumer rights protection,” the prosecutors said.
Roustam Tariko, Russian Standard’s chairman, said the bank had co-operated with prosecutors on the issue and had made the necessary changes.
“Russian Standard Bank quickly made the necessary adjustments to its consumer policy and product lines,” Mr Tariko said. “I understood and shared the concerns of the Russian government, and together we identified the most important areas of improvement.”
Unlisted Russian Standard, which specialises in point-of-sale loans and credit cards, has faced a wave of complaints from borrowers over the double-digit percentage rates it charges on unsecured loans.
The bank has also been the target of criticism from prosecutors and a consumer protection watchdog, un-nerving holders of its junk-rated eurobonds. Banks have been required to disclose their effective lending rates since July 1.
Russian banks borrowed heavily abroad in recent years, taking advantage of low global interest rates. Russian Standard, owned by vodka-to-banking billionaire Mr Tariko, has about $2.6bn in eurobonds outstanding.
Meanwhile, Russia’s central bank yesterday injected Rbs43.1bn ($1.7bn) into the country’s banking system as Russia fought the first symptoms of the global liquidity crunch spreading to its markets.
Sergei Storchak, deputy finance minister, sought to play down the central bank’s intervention. “There is nothing grave there [in the global markets environment]. It is a correction,” Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.
Hans Jorg Rudloff, chairman of Barclays Capital, has warned that Russian financial markets could be hit hard by a nosedive in global sentiment owing to the rapid growth in borrowing by some consumer lenders. “It is a boom which is not sustainable and I have to warn people,” he said.

One senior western banker said on Thursday that Russia could lose a large source of financing as global hedge funds reel from the subprime crisis. “Russia is losing an entire segment of the market which has been piling Russian assets on their backs,” the banker said.