May 12, 2011 / 12:10 PM / 7 years ago

Kazakh bank BTA returns to profit, may sell assets

* Open to offers for Belarus unit, Sekerbank stake

* Debt restructuring forms basis of 2010 profit

* Sees small growth in loan portfolio in 2011

By Olga Orininskaya

ALMATY, May 12 (Reuters) - Kazakh bank BTA BTAS.KZ is open to offers for its Belarussian and Turkish assets and will seek to expand lending to the retail sector and small businesses at home this year, the bank’s chief executive said on Thursday.

BTA, Kazakhstan’s No. 3 bank by assets, also expects a small increase in net profit this year after a billion-dollar debt restructuring programme reversed heavy losses sustained in 2009.

Kazakhstan’s banking sector was hard hit by the global financial crisis. BTA was the biggest of four Kazakh banks to default in 2009. Its former head Mukhtar Ablyazov fled to Britain. [ID:nLDE67O0RD]

“We expect a small operational profit this year from our existing activities,” Chief Executive Anvar Saidenov told a news conference. He declined to give a more precise forecast.

Saidenov said the bank would consider selling off some subsidiary companies, including its Belarussian business.

“It’s not a big bank. It’s a second-tier Belarussian bank, but it’s profitable,” he said. “We don’t rule out considering a sale should we receive an offer price that would recoup our investment and maybe even bring a little extra profit.”

He said BTA would also consider selling its 34 percent stake in Turkey’s Sekerbank (SKBNK.IS), although it had not yet received any firm offers.

LOAN GROWTH

Saidenov said the bank’s overall loan portfolio would grow by between 1 percent and 2 percent this year.

“Our retail and small business portfolios are growing but their share (of the total portfolio) is very small, so we understand that overall growth will not be very significant.” BTA said it recorded net income of $6.69 billion in 2010, versus a net loss of $7.51 billion in 2009, due mainly to gains from the debt restructuring completed last August.

The bank reduced its net debt to $4.2 billion from $12.2 billion through the debt restructuring programme.

Kazakhstan’s banks are now recovering in tandem with the economy. Gross domestic product grew 7 percent last year versus 1.2 percent in 2009.

Saidenov said BTA would continue trying to recover funds lost during a pre-crisis expansion under its former management.

“As far as positive results are concerned, I would be looking more at 2012 than 2011,” he said. Saidenov last year estimated the bank’s problem loan portfolio in Russia at about $6.5 billion. [ID:nLDE6801R5]

Following the debt restructuring, Kazakh sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna owns 81.5 percent of BTA. Local and foreign creditors assumed an 18.5 percent stake.

Samruk-Kazyna has pledged, in time, to sell its controlling interest in BTA and other Kazakh banks to the private sector. (Writing by Robin Paxton. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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