* Fake warnings about defaults lead to runs on deposits
* Hoax comes as government seeks calm after devaluation
* Central bank provided liquidity to tide banks over
By Dmitry Solovyov and Mariya Gordeyeva
ALMATY, Feb 19 Kazakhstan's central bank on
Wednesday accused anonymous "provocateurs" of stirring up panic
on the market, still jumpy after last week's tenge devaluation,
by using social media to trigger a run on deposits at three
The central bank devalued the tenge by 19 percent on Feb. 11
to about 185 per dollar to prevent large-scale foreign exchange
speculation and adjust to a freer rouble float in neighbouring
Russia, Kazakhstan's main trading partner.
The central bank and the government promptly stamped out
speculative rates at street exchange offices, pledged to put
rigid controls on food prices and froze tariffs of public
utilities until May in a bid to keep inflation in check.
Sending another calming message to his Central Asian nation
of 17 million, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said a weaker
tenge was set to bolster exports, create new jobs and help keep
economic growth at 6 percent of above this year.
But a wave of warnings distributed by unknown senders via
text messages and some social networks on Tuesday gave the
authorities a headache.
The messages, which claimed to come from employees of the
central bank, said that three mid-sized banks - CenterCredit,
Alliance Bank and Kaspi Bank - would go bankrupt in three days
and advised people to withdraw their deposits from them.
National Bank Governor Kairat Kelimbetov said this had led
to a wave of deposit withdrawals from the banks and prompted the
central bank to provide liquidity to them in order to quell the
agitation on the market.
"I think there are some forces with vested interests willing
to rock the boat," he told a news conference.
"We have witnessed queues at the Kazakh banks. Yesterday
these banks and the National Bank asked law-enforcers and the
prosecutor-general's office to put an end to these actions and
track down the provocateurs who spread this information."
Kelimbetov said that all local banks had stable financial
status and sufficient reserves in the tenge and foreign
currencies to meet all their obligations to depositors.
He declined to give estimates for the volume of the
Last month Alliance Bank set out terms for its second debt
restructuring, saying it aimed to complete negotiations with
investors by June.
On Tuesday, however, ratings agency Moody's downgraded
Alliance Bank's long-term local and foreign-currency senior
unsecured debt rating to pre-default "C" from "Ca".
Kelimbetov countered that the very fact that Kazakhstan's
sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna, which wields assets worth
tens of billions of dollars, still controls the bank meant that
the lender is not on the verge of imminent bankruptcy.
"We believe, current speculation on the possible bankruptcy
of CenterCredit, Alliance Bank and Kaspi Bank is groundless ...
and people are simply being deceived," analysts of investment
company Asyl Invest said in comments sent to Reuters.
The prosecutor-general's office said later on Wednesday it
had established some of the persons suspected of "spreading
false information" and planned to launch criminal proceedings
These actions "aimed to shake the banking sector ... and
whipped up social tension in society", it said in a statement.
(Writing by Dmitry Solovyov)