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Kazakh bank BTA eyes portfolio growth, profit

01.09.2010 / By Maria Gordeyeva and Robin Paxton, Reuters 

ALMATY, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Kazakh bank BTA, fresh from a restructuring that slashed its debt by two thirds, aims to grow its loan portfolio by 10 percent annually until 2014 and forecasts a net profit in excess of $100 million next year.   

Chief Executive Anvar Saidenov said on Wednesday BTA's shareholders, led by sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna, were also considering the partial writedown of bad loans.  

"Next year, according to our business model, we should embark on stable growth without the support of the government," Saidenov told Reuters in an interview. He forecast net profit in 2011 of between $100 million and $140 million.   

Kazakhstan's banking sector, one of the first and hardest hit by the global financial crisis, is recovering in tandem with an improving economy. Gross domestic product grew 8 percent in the first six months of 2010, versus 1.2 percent in all of 2009.   

BTA was the biggest of four Kazakh lenders to default last year. The bank, Kazakhstan's third-largest by assets, reduced its net debt to $4.2 billion from $12.2 billion through a debt restructuring programme formally completed on Aug. 31.  

Samruk-Kazyna owns 81.5 percent of BTA after converting its debt into common shares. Local and foreign creditors assumed an 18.5 percent stake in the bank following the restructuring.   

BTA intends to focus on the domestic market and, by 2014, to have doubled its deposit base from 2008 levels. It envisages a loan portfolio comprising 50 percent corporate business, 30 percent small and medium business and 20 percent retail by 2014.  

"For our entire loan portfolio in 2011, we expect growth of 10 percent, although small and medium business and retail will grow faster," Saidenov said.   

He said a plan to write down a portion of the bank's loans, being discussed by shareholders, would be "a radical step" because, in effect, it would be a writedown of the state's claims. "No decision has been taken yet," he added.   

ASSET RECOVERY   

BTA is in the process of trying to recover funds lost during its previous expansion abroad, mainly into Russia. It has distributed new debt securities to its shareholders, including $5.2 billion in recovery notes and $2.3 billion in senior notes.   

The former head of BTA, Mukhtar Ablyazov, fled to Britain after he was accused of fraud and embezzlement. He denies all charges and told Reuters last month he believed they were motivated by fears of his political ambitions.   

Saidenov said the bank's consultant had advised it that a 20 percent return rate on such problem assets was a reasonable target, based on international experience.   

"Nowhere have we set this as our target, but we can use it as a guide in our work," he said. "But if talk is about our (problem) loan portfolio in the CIS, 20 percent is optimistic."  

Saidenov estimated the bank's problem loan portfolio in Russia at about $6.5 billion.   

Samruk-Kazyna has pledged, in time, to sell its controlling interest in BTA and other Kazakh banks to the private sector. Sberbank, Russia's largest lender, has been linked with BTA since receiving an offer to buy the bank last year.   

Saidenov said Sberbank, to his knowledge, was the only potential buyer with which Samruk-Kazyna had held serious talks to date. Samruk-Kazyna Chief Executive Kairat Kelimbetov said in March that the fund could look at alternatives.  

(Writing by Robin Paxton; Editing by David Holmes)