“The Ukrainian revolution has been very bad for business in the country. But for Igor Kolomoisky’s Privatbank there has been compensation of almost a billion dollars in state funds: publicly, rival Ukrainian commercial banks call that favouritism; privately, Ukrainian business as usual.
Privatbank is Ukraine’s largest commercial bank. Since the replacement of the Ukrainian Government in February, and the start of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) financial aid programme in April, Privatbank has been the largest beneficiary of what the IMF and the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance are calling Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) to the country’s banks. Published measurements of Privatbank’s share of ELA range from 36% to more than 40% of the additional financing which has flowed out of Ukrainian state funds into the commercial banks. Just how much Kolomoisky benefits, along with related companies to which Privatbank lends much of its loan book, is one of the control operations being performed this week, as the IMF’s Ukraine mission starts its first inspection since the IMF transferred $3.2 billion to the National Bank of Ukraine on May 7.
This is the first tranche of the $17.1 billion committed to Kiev by the IMF. The next tranche of $1.4 billion, according to the IMF’s published schedule, is due to be paid on July 25. The complete inspection and payment schedule looks like this:
The IMF mission leader in Kiev this week is Nikolay Gueorguiev. Two weeks ago, he indicated that he will be discussing with his counterparts at the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and the Ministry of Finance what reports the IMF expects to gather by next month on stress testing of the condition of Privatbank and the fourteen other major domestic banks, which are the IMF’s priority targets. The technical criteria, selection of independent auditors, and the deadlines for reporting stress test results Gueorguiev says he is hoping to finalize in Kiev by the weekend. For Gueorguiev’s remarks, read this.
According to Gerry Rice (right), the spokesman for the IMF’s managing director, Christine Lagarde (left), there’s no telling how much of the IMF payments will be transferred to the Ukrainian banks. “Those funds,” said Rice, “are not assigned to specific budget line items, but the package ensures, or tries to ensure that the government can stabilize the public finances, and remain current on all its payment obligations…On the question of the disbursement, as you probably know, our disbursements are made for budget support, and then we review the budget support on a fairly rigorous basis and assessment in the context of the reviews of the program. In this case, as you know, it’s bimonthly reviews, so at that time we will be looking at how expenditures are being used, and how the budgetary support indicators are being tracked, the budget deficit indicators and so on.”
In its package of agreements and technical understandings with the Ukrainian government, the IMF defined the bank bailout programme ELA as “ an emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) facility that lends at a high penalty rate against nonstandard collateral (corporate and household loans) at a 65–75 percent haircut.” — page 8. To keep tabs, the IMF is requiring the central bank (NBU) to “provide the IMF, on a two weekly basis, with daily data on the total financing (including refinancing) issued by the NBU to commercial banks, broken down by types of instrument, original maturity of the financing, interest rate as well as transactions to absorb liquidity from the banking system.”
The IMF has also ordered the Ministry of Finance to “provide, no later than 15 days after the end of each month, monthly data on the budgetary costs associated with the recapitalization of banks and SOEs. This cost includes the upfront impact on the cash deficit of the general government of the recapitalization of banks and SOEs as well as the costs associated with the payment of interests.”
Because the technical terminology used by the IMF, NBU, Finance Ministry, and the English-language markets can be imprecise and slip from one balance-sheet line item to another in translation, the NBU was asked to confirm what volume of NBU financing for the Ukrainian commercial banks has been provided for February, March, April, May, and the first two weeks of June? Also, what value has been received by Privatbank and its associates?
The NBU issued a wordy answer. “In accordance with Article 7 of the Law of Ukraine ‘On the National Bank of Ukraine’, the National Bank of Ukraine acts as lender of last resort for banks and arranges a refinancing system to support liquidity in the event of unforeseen factors that may affect the activities of the bank, and if they have exhausted other options, refinancing. At present, the policy of the National Bank of Ukraine is aimed at ensuring transparency and equal conditions of access to refinancing instruments for the various banks”.
On the other hand, the NBU said it refuses to disclose what liquidity assistance it has been paying to Privatbank because “information on banks or customers, collected during banking supervision, is a bank secret.”
Because the IMF rule requires it, the Finance Ministry was asked what its record-keeping shows of how the ELA cash is being spent. The ministry responded that it’s up to the NBU to answer.
Public reporting by the NBU for the January-May period indicates that a total of UAH 104.8 billion (about $8 billion) in public funds, including part of the May payment from the IMF, has been given to the Ukrainian banks under ELA to support their liquidity. The handouts started to accelerate when Stepan Kubiv was appointed by the new government to be governor of the NBU on February 24. Before he arrived, the NBU had been spending an average of UAH15.4 billion on ELA per month. After Kubiv took over, the average monthly outlay jumped to UAH 24.7 billion; that’s a growth rate of 62%. Kubiv’s career record in doing things like that before, and what IMF officials knew of it, can be followed in this report of June 6.
(…) An international bank source has applied what he believes to be standard stress tests to Privatbank’s published 2013 accounts. He calculates that in 2015 “Privatbank would fall below capital adequacy levels which markets and regulators consider necessary. In 2016 it would be insolvent.” These forecasts, the source said, are warranted by the bank’s “large exposures to other entities of its owners. It has significant industry concentrations in Oil & Gas and Steel, likely due to the bank’s owners’ interests in these industries. Both factors have historically been associated with high levels of losses in stressed conditions.”
The source also concludes that because of Privatbank’s importance in the Ukrainian bank sector, the “risks of contagion and the direct effects to the Ukrainian economy from one of its largest lenders collapsing, it is likely that public assistance of Privatbank would be required in a stress.” (Read much more: John Helmer, 6/24/2014)