What is the fate of the banking sector in Russia

Only 21% of Russian banks are able to independently generate capital, analysts concluded ACRA. The only source of financing in these conditions is the state, and on the horizon of three to five years the situation will not change.
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Russian banks have rather modest opportunities to increase their capital independently without losing financial stability, according to a study by the rating agency ACRA (owned by RBC). Banks that can consistently generate capital make up only a fifth of their total, accounting for 36% of the sector's assets. At the same time, 62.5% of banks (46% of assets) in the last three years were at least once in a critical zone for their ability to increase capital, calculated in ACRA.

The authors of the study believe that such indicators indicate unstable operating efficiency, and also indicate the need for the sector in external infusions. The only source of financial assistance for banks on the horizon of several years will be the state, and the banking sector will continue to "skid" at least another three to five years, predicts in ACRA.

With losses and problem assets

By the end of 2017, the largest Russian banks (whose assets accounted for 89% of the total system) saw a sharp drop in the average weighted generation of capital, from 76 basis points in 2016 to minus 86. This indicator passed from a satisfactory zone to a critical one, the study said. This happened because of the recognition of losses of 1.45 trillion rubles. the largest banks that are on reorganization in the Fund for the Consolidation of the Banking Sector (FSSS). Last year, three large banking groups were taken to the sanation through the FSSS: FC Otkritie, Binbank and Promsvyazbank. To save them, taking into account the provision of liquidity and new capital, the Central Bank spent 2.62 trillion rubles, said the head of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina in an interview with Reuters.

Identification of a large volume of problem assets and pre-reservation for them led to the formation of a net loss in the sector of about 300 billion rubles. according to IFRS, indicate in ACRA. As a result, the coefficient of averaged generation of capital (GCC, testifies to the banks' own ability to increase capital), calculated for the period 2013-2017, decreased as a whole in the system from 55 to 7 bp. This indicator, according to ACRA, points to the weak ability of banks to independently generate capital and be financially sustainable. Problematic assets are still on the balance sheet of Russian banks. According to ACRA, the required reserves for them may exceed 500 billion rubles. in 2018-2019.

The main contribution to the indicators of profitability and capital generation, according to the authors of the study, until the end of 2021 will continue to make the largest banks with state participation. It is primarily about the locomotive of the banking sector - Sberbank, as well as a number of large private players and subsidiaries of foreign banks with a high level of creditworthiness.

Owners without interest

Tighter regulation on the part of the Central Bank in terms of the creation of reserves for distressed assets and the struggle for the client reduce the interest of owners to the banking business, analysts of ACRA believe. The need to maintain capital at the level that allows meeting the requirements of the regulator led to a drop in the share of dividend payments in the financial result of banks from 81-84% in 2015-2016 to 56% in 2017 (without Sberbank, its dividend payments due to scale mask the situation with dividends for the rest of the sector). "The dominance of state-owned banks and low economic potential also reduce the investment interest in the banking business," experts say.

The trend of loss of interest of owners to the banking business really is, agrees the leading expert "Expert RA" Yuri Belikov. However, in his opinion, the reason is not the tightening of regulation, but the inability of individual players to work on market conditions - without concentrating on active operations on related parties and taking unreasonable risks in a threat to the interests of customers. "Such institutions must leave the market - this is a normal program for cleaning it," he believes.

Fitch's senior director, Alexander Danilov, shares this view. "For Russia, such a large number of banks are redundant, and it's not surprising that in today's tougher competitive environment, those who have a working business model and a real business are coming forward," explains Danilov. More weak players, in his opinion, will "quietly" leave the race. According to the expert, the state will support any banks in case of problems - but these will be "units" having systemic or regional significance.

The core of the banking sector (two-thirds by assets) is stable, as it consists of either strong players (Sberbank, Alfa-Bank, Sovcombank, subsidiaries of foreign banks), or weaker state-owned banks (VTB, Rosselkhozbank, Gazprombank) that , nevertheless, are supported by the state, says Alexander Danilov.

Although the share of unprofitable banks has indeed increased in recent years (from 2014 it increased from 10 to 31%), this was due to a reduction in the total number of banks (including through demonstrating positive profitability through illegal activities), as well as tightening regulation in terms of assessment of the quality of bank assets and reserve requirements, says the leading expert in Expert RA. "Nevertheless, banks, whose business pays off, remain in the majority for the time being", notes Belikov, pointing out that there are effective medium and large private banks in the banking system, there are no reasons for leaving them from the market.

The system needs a "push"

In order for the banking system to independently generate capital by increasing profits, a stronger growth of "healthy" corporate lending is needed, which requires a "push from outside", that is, an economic growth of at least 4.5-5%, ACRA states . Meanwhile, according to Rosstat, Russia's economy in 2017 grew by 1.5% after a decline in 2015-2016 (by 2.5 and 0.2% respectively), and in the first quarter of this year, according to preliminary estimates, growth was 1.3%. By the end of 2018, the Central Bank forecasts an economic growth of 1.5-2%, the Ministry of Economic Development - 1.6-2.1%. According to ACRA forecasts, in 2018 GDP growth will be 1.6% and will remain approximately at this level in the next three to five years, said head of the rating agency Ekaterina Trofimova in an interview with RBC.

A very weak and, most likely, slowing economic growth limits the opportunities for building a "healthy" loan portfolio and, as a result, does not allow banks to steadily increase profits over a long period of time, notes Irina Nosova, deputy director of the group of bank ratings. According to her, despite a significant reduction in rates, the corporate sector still demonstrates extremely weak demand for borrowed funds. At the same time, there is a structural surplus of liquidity and an increase in the volume of banks' investments in securities, predominantly state (OFZ), the expert explains. "As a result, there is enough money in the market, but they do not get into the real sector," she concludes.

To banks began to actively lend and earn more, certainly, need more substantial economic growth or at least prerequisites for it, said Alexander Danilov. Meanwhile, while the forecasts are "modest" - for example, corporate loans will grow by about 5% in 2018, and growth is mainly due to refinancing of external loans and partly deferred demand after the last crisis, he believes.

Due to lack of demand on the part of companies, banks are more active in retail (growth this year may exceed 15%), reducing issuance standards. "Banks continue to lend to the population, issuing long unsecured loans for up to seven years, which is fraught with increased delinquency, especially in the case of stress. A large volume of mortgages (about 40%) is given with an initial contribution of less than 20%, "states Danilov. All this entails new risks, which are not sufficiently closed by the current regulation, he concludes.