Mon Sep 10, 2007 1:29PM EDT
By Douglas Busvine
MOSCOW (Reuters) — Russian Standard Bank, the country’s leading credit card provider, plans to rein in Eurobond issuance and is diversifying its funding sources, Chief Executive Dmitry Levin told Reuters on Monday.
Russian Standard, owned by vodka-to-banking billionaire Roustam Tariko, has the heaviest foreign exposure of any Russian bank, and its bonds have been hit hard by the market fallout from the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis.
But Levin told the Reuters Russia Investment Summit the bank felt “comfortable” with its financing situation and faced no problems redeeming a $300 million Eurobond that falls due this month.
“We feel we do not have a lot of refinancing risk,” Levin said. “For the year, we have already repaid, for example, $1 billion of debts, and that’s why we don’t see anything special.”
Russian Standard, rated BB- by Standard & Poor’s, will hold off issuing new Eurobonds for the rest of this year and early next year, Levin said.
Around $1.3 billion of foreign borrowing falls due for repayment in 2008. That includes another $300 million Eurobond maturing next April.
A market sell-off has pushed up that bond’s yield to around 12 percent from 8 percent in early July, but Levin said the weakness was not specific to the bank. “It was not a sell-off of Russian Standard bonds, it was a sell-off of all bonds,” he said.
LEND SHORT, BORROW LONG
Unlike most banks, Russian Standard’s consumer focus means it lends short and borrows long, and it can count on a daily $20 million in cash flow from customer payments.
It maintains a high liquidity “gap” across all maturities, keeping funds on hand to meet its debt repayments, and has a strong capital adequacy ratio of 23 percent, Levin noted.
Russian Standard is building its retail funding base, and is on track to hit its target of having $400 million in deposits by the end of this year, he added.
Two securitization deals are also ready to go — one for credit card receivables of 400 million euros and one for car loans of $150-$200 million — and may be launched by year end.
Russian Standard fully hedges its foreign liabilities, now equivalent to 55 percent of its balance sheet. It wants to get the share of its Eurobonds down to
Russian Standard, which has 20 million clients and controls 70 percent of the market for credit cards in Russia, has come under the scrutiny of the Russian authorities over its lending practices.
Levin said the bank’s management had worked closely with the authorities, moving to execute a plan to phase out fees and commissions to make its product range more transparent. It now charges interest at 22 percent on purchases and 36 percent on cash advances.
The bank has said the changeover will cut into its profitability after it posted a 63 percent rise in first-half earnings to 10.2 billion roubles ($399 million).
Levin forecast full-year net profits at $500-550 million, just below last year’s 14.5 billion roubles ($567 million).
“We have ... shown to investors that our performance could be strong with the new product range,” he said. “Demand is very strong for our products, and client feedback is very positive.”
Russian Standard wants to develop its credit card franchise further, grow its car loan business and break into the personal and cash loans business, where state-controlled Sberbank is the dominant player on the market, Levin said.
It is also growing life insurance, deposits and current accounts to create a stronger product offering on the liability side. But it has no major plans to break into the burgeoning mortgage market for now.
“We are testing the market,” said Levin. “We don’t want to have a pure commodity product.”
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