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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Unikombank Limits Client Access to Cash

Struggling Unikombank was besieged by desperate clients Monday trying to withdraw money from their accounts, as the bank froze some payouts due to liquidity problems.


"I haven't been able to receive either my salary or take personal money out from the bank," said an exasperated Valentin Petrov, a middle-aged electrician, who had to wait in line all morning at a Unikombank branch near Pushkin Square to get that answer.


The cash crunch came despite a 150-billion ruble ($30 million) emergency credit from the state savings bank Sberbank; the emergency credit was arranged by its main stockholder the Central Bank, which took Unikombank into receivership two weeks ago.


Officials said at the time that Unikombank, Russia's 12th largest by assets, would continue to pay depositors, but there might be some delays.


It was not clear whether the volume of customer requests for withdrawals had picked up significantly Monday.


But there were dozens of people waiting in line at the bank's main branch near metro Sukharevskaya. And some of the bank customers said they had been to the main branch several times last week as well.


Larisa Korshonova, Unikombank's chief accountant, said the bank had already used up the 150 billion ruble credit from Sberbank last week as it paid out 200 billion rubles to priority clients.


But she said she was "not worried" about meeting future obligations because another 100 billion rubles from Sberbank and credits from unspecified other banks were expected soon.


Korshonova said she was confident Unikombank would soon overcome its debt crisis.


She said the Moscow regional administration had just bought a controlling stake in the bank of more than 51 percent, "significantly strengthening [our] resources" and giving its management say over payouts.


The Central Bank management committee was deciding on a case-by-case basis which withdrawals would be allowed, Korshonova said.


Central Bank officials declined to comment Monday on credits that it had arranged or any new measures it might take.


Alexander Zagryadsky, spokesman for the Association of Russian Banks, said state authorities had little choice but to arrange a rescue for Unikombank.


"One of the main motivations for the Moscow regional administration to help out the bank is that if it collapses a lot of companies, factories and institutions operating in the Moscow region will go bankrupt," he said.


Andrei Yashenko, an analyst with United City Bank, said Unikombank could get back on its feet with help.


"If the Moscow Region acts as a guarantor for Unikombank, I think other banks will be willing to grant it other loans," Yashenko said.


For now, however, clients were left in the lurch.


"It seems that I won't be able to pay my workers' salaries for some time," said Igor Lakeyev, general director of the trading company Polyarny Soyuz.


Lakeyev added that, in response to the bank's freezing of payouts, he had already opened an account at another bank.


Alyona Alexeyevna, working at the operations desk at a Unikombank branch near Pushkin Square, said some clients might have to wait one or two weeks to get paid.


"There have been a lot of people coming to the bank to get their payments, but unfortunately we cannot give it to them right now until the situation has been stabilized," she said.