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​Russia’s biggest bank halts foreign currency personal loans

​Russia’s biggest bank halts foreign currency personal loans
Sberbank has temporarily suspended giving foreign currency loans to individuals. Experts say other Russian banks are not likely to follow.

Russian banks aren't going to suspend foreign currency loans to individual Russians as they have just simplified credit product operations. Experts suggest Sberbank’s ruble-only loans have a more political character.

The bank said its April 1 decision was intended "to optimize the structure of the current portfolio and its stable behavior in the future, in case of any foreign currencies exchange rate fluctuations ".

"The bank preliminarily analyzed the needs of the clients and revealed that the current demand for loans can be completely satisfied with rubles without losing any advantages for the Sberbank products, including stocks offers," the Prime news quotes Sberbank officials.

In 2013 Sberbank issued $50 million of foreign currency loans, which account for 0.07 percent of the $68 billion loaned. 90 percent of the foreign currency loans were consumer, 9 percent mortgage, and 1 percent was for vehicles.

Bank of Russia Deputy Chairman Alexey Simanovsky doesn't expect Russian banks will stop giving foreign currency loans.

"Sberbank’s approach is a normal move towards simplification: to get rid of products which don't generate income," Igor Bulantsev, the chairman of Nordea Bank said.

He says many Russian banks have already managed to orientate their activities and simplify credit product operations.

"Taking into account the transition towards a floating exchange rate for the ruble … it is normal for people to take out loans in the same currency they spend, in same currency of the country" — he added.

However, Bulantsev said Nordea Bank isn't going to do away with foreign currency loans.

"Now their share is slightly less than 15 percent. We feel quite comfortable because when we give out foreign currency loans, we perform serious stress tests on the borrowers to make sure they can pay the money back. Taking into account our approach we don't see any serious risks to ourselves and our clients," the banker said.