ALMATY, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan’s authorities may need to take more measures to prevent a fresh asset quality crisis fuelled by risky retail lending, rating agency Moody’s said on Thursday, warning that a spike in defaults was looming.
While banking system assets in the oil-exporting Central Asian nation have shrunk over the last four years, with two large lenders bailed out by the state, loans to households have ballooned, leading to concerns.
“Retail loans in Kazakhstan are growing rapidly again, raising the risk of a repeat of the asset quality crisis in 2014-15,” Moody’s said in a report.
The ratio of total retail loans, excluding mortgages, to overall nominal household income will by mid-2020 exceed a pre-crisis high of 2.4 times reached in 2013, without regulatory measures to restrict loan growth, it added.
Stable economic conditions in the former Soviet republic and steps such as writing down some of the existing debt and a “ban on lending to economically weak individuals” may extend the credit cycle, it said.
“However, such measures may prove inadequate as banks could find loopholes to circumvent them as they have in the past,” Moody’s said.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered his government in June to help some 500,000 low-income borrowers repay their bank debts, a step the authorities said would completely wipe out the debt of some 250,000 people and ease the burden on many others.
Among Kazakh banks rated by Moody’s, Tengri Bank which is part-owned by Punjab National Bank, and Altyn Bank controlled by China CITIC Bank Corporation have seen their retail loans grow at the fastest pace, the agency said.
At the same time, Kaspi Bank - part of the Kaspi.kz holding which last month pulled a London listing blaming market conditions - and Eurasian Bank are most exposed to risks from the retail segment, Moody’s said.
Bank bailouts have already cost Kazakhstan more than $10 billion. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Hugh Lawson)