“We bought it, let’s say, for one tenge.” Deputy head of Baiterek insists that Bereke Bank deal was reasonable

Some experts doubt that the sale of Bereke Bank was any good for Kazakhstan / Kursiv.media, photo editor: Aruzhan Makhsotova

According to Deputy Head of Baiterek Nurbolat Aidapkelov, the sale of Bereke Bank to Lesha Bank for $146.2 million was good for both the holding and Kazakhstan as a whole.

«Given that we have acquired the bank, let’s say, for one tenge, what we managed to earn from the deal [65 billion tenge or $146.2 million] is very good. I mean, we have bought the bank almost for nothing,» he said.

As the official noted, not a single penny from the state budget was spent on acquiring the former subsidiary of Russian Sberbank in September 2022 as the two sides settled the deal under bilateral clearing.

The news about the deal’s closure went public on May 20, even though it was actually closed on March 31. As expected, the buyer was Lesha Bank, an investment bank from Qatar. CEO of Halyk Bank Umut Shayakhmetova described the deal as unmarketable, citing the fact that Bereke was sold for just 39.8% of its capital (as of April 1).

Bereke Bank used to be under the control of Russian Sberbank and operated under its brand prior to September 2022. In the spring of that year, the U.S. imposed blocking sanctions against the bank and its parent company. They were lifted once the bank was acquired by the Baiterek holding. In May 2022, the bank paid $292.4 million to its sole shareholder, Sberbank, in dividend payouts for the prior year. As a result, some financiers believe this was a hidden payment for the credit institution. There was no public announcement of the deal.

In September 2023, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that the country had to attract at least three reliable foreign banks in addition to Home Credit Bank from Czechia, KZI Bank (a subsidiary of Turkish Ziraat Bank) and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (part of Al Hilal). Several other foreign banks, which have been operating in Kazakhstan for years, render services only to corporate clients.

According to Fitch Ratings, the credit rating of Bereke Bank might be lowered after the deal with Lesha Bank because it will no longer be able to rely on support from the government.

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