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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Central Bank Aids Tveruniversalbank

The Central Bank has appointed a team of experts to work with Tveruniversalbank, Russia's largest regional bank, which media reports say is facing liquidity problems.

"The decision was made after Tveruniversalbank approached the Central Bank for help and advice," said a Central Bank spokesman. He said the team would help the bank's management in "analyzing its present situation and mapping out a future strategy."

The spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said it was the first time the Central Bank had appointed such a team without imposing crisis management.

The move underscores a trend of more active Central Bank regulation and control of Russia's large commercial banks, which are facing potential liquidity crises that could lead to a bank shakeout and mergers.

Tveruniversalbank is the largest Russian bank outside Moscow and St. Petersburg and operates one of Russia's major clearing houses. At the start of the year it was Russia's 17th-largest bank, with total assets of 6.1 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion).

Tveruniversalbank officials said Tuesday that Russian press reports of its failure to make payments on accounts of corporate and private depositors were "based on rumors." They blamed technical problems for what were termed "isolated instances" of nonpayment.

"The bank is working in a normal manner," said Pavel Zotov, the bank's head of public relations. Zotov acknowledged that Tveruniversalbank, like other Russian banks, had been affected by pre-election jitters in an-already tight financial market.

"In the run-up to the elections, banks from other CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries have withdrawn their money from correspondent accounts, and enterprises have postponed as many payments as possible," he said. "Transfers are going very slowly these days."

He also acknowledged some private clients had withdrawn deposits, but he said that had less of an effect on the bank.

Last week Alexandra Kozyreva, Tveruniversalbank's president, said the bank's deposits had decreased by 200 billion rubles, about 5 percent, the Commersant Daily newspaper reported.

The Central Bank recently announced that it would increase control over the country's 30 to 40 largest banks through a new department known by its Russian acronym, OPERU-2.

Over the last two months several of Russia's largest banks have faced financial problems prompting intervention by the Central Bank.

In May the Central Bank put Unikombank, the country's 12th-largest bank, under crisis management after it froze payments to clients. The Central Bank, which organized an emergency credit for Unikombank through the state savings bank Sberbank, is also thought to have helped broker a deal with the Moscow regional administration to take a 40 percent stake in the bank last month. A new management team was installed at Unikombank, which still remains under Central Bank control.

Also last month, the Central Bank helped initiate negotiations between Credobank and the State Customs Committee after the latter requested the bank's accounts with the Central Bank be frozen.

But bankers said increased control and intervention by the Central Bank would not eliminate the underlying economic problems in the banking sector.

"There is an acute shortage of financial resources on the market," Zagryadsky said, adding that a Central Bank decision last month to increase the compulsory reserves of commercial banks had "a negative influence" on the financial markets.

In a separate development, President Boris Yeltsin on Sunday signed a decree on state financial support for the large Western Siberian Steel Works in Novokusnetsk, Credobank's largest corporate creditor.