Belarusian banking sector shakes off disrepute
U.S. government has imposed sanctions against a number of Belarusian banks, which hampered their operations. The new requirements for banks’ regulatory capital triggered the ownership change process for small and medium-sized banks. As a result, the Belarusian banking sector will get rid of banks with dubious reputation, improving the Belarusian financial system’s image.
On January 22nd, 100% of Onerbank shares were sold to the BCSE for EUR 5.1 million.
The new edition of the Banking Code, which took effect on January 22nd, 2013, set the schedule for banks’ regulatory capital requirements. According to the NB Board’s decision No 522 from October 30th, 2012, as of January 1st, 2014, the minimum regulatory capital for an operating bank has been set at EUR 15 million, and as of January 1st, 2015 - at least EUR 25 million. A number of banks in Belarus do not meet the new requirements and need additional resources to continue operations.
U.S. government sanctions were introduced against two Belarusian banks with Iranian capital - Onerbank and Trade Capital Bank for supporting Iran’s nuclear programme. Sanctions against Credexbank were introduced in connection with allegations of money laundering in favour of fictitious companies. Sanctions hampered operations of these banks. Onerbank and Credexbank needed to capitalize on emerging regulatory capital requirements and as a result they were sold to new owners.
In early 2013 the Credexbank’s ownership structure has changed. The bank’s new owner is Russian Starbank. The bank has been renamed into InterPayBank and it will focus on the development of payment systems and terminals in Belarus.
On January 22nd, Onerbank was bought by two entities, not related to the banking sector of Belarus or the EU. Inter alia, the banks’ ownership has changed partially because of the sanctions against the bank.
Thus, two of the three banks, just like Info Bank, have changed owners and following renaming and rebranding will no longer raise U.S. government’s concerns. Moreover, they will meet the new National Bank’s requirements on the regulatory capital and will continue operations in Belarus. The Bank Torgovyj Kapital meets the regulatory capital requirements, but it is possible that it will be pushed for ownership changes. As a result, the U.S. government will have no more claims to any of the banks in Belarus.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.