The execution of the decision of the arbitration court of the Hague on recovery from Russia of compensation for property in the Crimea at the claim of a number of Igor Kolomoisky companies has passed into the recovery stage. As part of this decision, shares of the Ukrainian Sberbank, VTB and Prominvestbank (PIB) have already been arrested. Now there is a risk of real disposition of their property, which may lead to the threat of default on depositors. Against this background, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) supported the banks, speaking out against the withdrawal of assets. Lawyers say that the regulator can be brought in as a third party in court cases, and bankers consider the NBU intervention necessary.
The Kyiv Court of Appeal issued writs of execution for collection from the Russian Federation of about $ 140 million pursuant to the decision of the Hague arbitration court to recover compensation for property in Crimea at the claim of a number of Igor Kolomoisky companies. In September, the court arrested the shares of the Ukrainian Sberbank, VTB and Prominvestbank (VEB's subsidiary) as part of the enforcement of the Hague decision, and also imposed a ban on the alienation of their assets (see Kommersant of September 13).
Lawyers admit that after the issuance of writ of execution, a foreclosure of the assets of Russian state-owned banks in Ukraine can be initiated. “The debtor is the Russian Federation, and, therefore, it is necessary to collect the assets of Russia, and not the Russian legal entities, since otherwise contradicts the established international practice. However, given that the Kiev court had previously found it possible to seize the Ukrainian assets of Russian state-owned banks, this means that it can be reprimanded, ”says partner of the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, Alexei Panich.“ Therefore, it’s possible that the Hague decision arbitration and sale of assets. " The lawyer adds that Russian banks may ask to suspend execution. “If the Russian banks fail to challenge the arrest and foreclosure of these assets in the Supreme Court of Ukraine, they still have options to go to investment arbitrage or even to the Strasbourg court,” he points out. September 14, VEB announced the initiation of a dispute against Ukraine on the illegal expropriation of investments.
However, the first deputy chairman of the NBU, Ekaterina Rozhkova, unexpectedly spoke out against the arrest of assets of subsidiaries of Russian banks: “I don’t want to comment on the court’s decision, because it’s very ambiguous: if it’s about the net assets of the defendants, then it’s capital, but not loans, because not bank money, but funds owed to depositors. In any case, the banks filed an appeal, let's see how it will end. ” The regulator believes that "we must go in a civilized way and allow banks with Russian capital to settle accounts with creditors and leave our market." Market participants and experts perceived this position as a willingness to support banks in court.
As explained to “Kommersant” in the NBU, at the stage of the imposition of interim measures, subsidiaries of Russian state-owned banks were forced to suspend the process of winding down business. “This was done by both VTB and PIB, and even a little Sberbank, which until recently hoped that it could be sold,” noted there. At the moment there are no documents in the NBU to agree on the acquisition of shares of these banks. Regarding the litigation, the NBU stated that “they are not a party to the process”.
However, this does not preclude the involvement of the NBU in the case as a third party, experts say. All three banks are trying to challenge the decision of the Kiev Court of Appeal, before the consideration of their complaints the case has not yet reached.
According to the reporting data, on September 1, the assets of Ukrainian Sberbank amounted to 33.3 billion hryvnia ($ 1.18 billion), VTB - 8.2 billion hryvnia ($ 290 million), PIB - 18.17 billion hryvnia ($ 640 million). In total, it is $ 2 billion, which is significantly more than the amount of recovery on the writ of execution - $ 140 million. “However, if this amount is unevenly distributed or the recovery is applied to the most liquid assets, banks may have difficulties with payments to depositors, which is undesirable for the NBU, since it can sow panic in the system as a whole, says Alor Broker analyst Alexei Antonov. Most likely, this is why the NBU took the side of the subsidiaries of Russian state banks. ”
So far, none of the listed banks is experiencing difficulties with the fulfillment of obligations. This was reported in Sberbank and VTB and PIB call center. At the same time, the press service of VTB noted that they consider it necessary for the NBU to intervene in the situation. It was the regulator, they stressed there, that can assess all the consequences of this situation for the banking system and depositors.