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Official: Kazakhstan Bank Defaults Not Encouraged

Kairat Kelimbetov
ALMATY (Reuters) -- Kazakhstan will not interfere in local banks' foreign debt policies or encourage them to restructure their debt, a senior state offical has said, a day after a third Kazakh lender halted debt repayments.

State-run BTA, Kazakhstan's largest bank, and No. 4 bank Alliance defaulted on their debts last month. Astana Finance, a lender which does not accept retail deposits, also suspended debt servicing this week.

The string of announcements has prompted worries about the prospects of other banks meeting their obligations at a time when the government is keen to make sure that money is used domestically to prop up the shrinking economy.

Kairat Kelimbetov, chief executive of Kazakhstan's state welfare fund Samruk-Kazyna, which acts as the government's agent in bank bailouts, said the state was not behind those decisions.

Asked if investors should expect similar steps from other Kazakh banks, Kelimbetov said: "If the question is whether this is a systemic approach by the state, this is not true."

He said there were different reasons behind each borrower's decision to restructure. Samruk bought a 75 percent stake in BTA in February and has appointed new managers at Alliance. The state owns about 25 percent in Astana Finance.

Samruk also owns stakes of about 20 percent in Kazkommertsbank and Halyk, Kazakhstan's second- and third-largest lenders.

"The deal [with Kazkommertsbank and Halyk] that the policy on foreign debt servicing is decided by the management," Kelimbetov said.

He added Samruk was "snowed under" dealing with BTA, Alliance, Halyk, and Kazkommertsbank and had little time to look into problems at Astana Finance.