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19 Mar, 2008 10:34

Russian banks fish for savers' cash

Russia’s biggest banks plan to increase interest rates on deposits, after the number one saving bank, Sberbank, put up ITS rates this week. The banks hope higher deposit rates will attract savers’ cash, as the on-going liquidity shortage starts to bite in

Sberbank CEO German Gref has announced a 50 base points increase in deposit rates for private clients, up to 9.5 percent – but only for long-term deposits.

“For now we have increased rates for long-term deposits of two years and more. Our terms for short-term and mid-term deposits remain unchanged so far,” he said.

Sberbank needed to increase its deposit rates to remain competitive in any case, but the measure sent a clear message to its rivals. VTB 24, Bank of Moscow and Gazprombank plan to raise rates by up to 1 per cent until the end of March.

Experts say the step was prompted by market factors.

“When there are other sources of funding – for example international funding – banks don’t fight for deposits. Russian banks are basically cut off of international funding and they have to fight for deposits locally. It’s not only inflation-based but also competition-based,” believes Rustam Botashev form Unicredit Aton.

Russian banks are highly dependent on retail and corporate deposits.

For Sberbank, savers deposits account for 80 per cent of total holdings, compared to 60 per cent for VTB 24.

Analysts expect the competition between banks for private deposits to heat up as the crisis on the global market gets worse.