Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sberbank to Release SBS Savings Friday

On a day when the Central Bank again sounded a death knell for large swathes of the Russian banking system, thousands of former SBS-Agro depositors received a welcome Christmas present: They can get at what is left of their savings as of Friday.

SBS-Agro and the national state savings bank, Sberbank, issued a joint statement Thursday saying that Sberbank would start servicing the accounts of SBS-Agro depositors - worth more than 1 billion rubles - on Friday.

Moscow depositors can start receiving their money then, a Sberbank spokesman said Thursday, contradicting reports last week that SBS-Agro depositors in the capital would have to wait until their brethren in the provinces had received there due.

An estimated 1.6 billion rubles in SBS-Agro private deposits were covered by a government deposit guarantee scheme under which depositors in six major private banks were allowed in September to transfer their savings to Sberbank and then claim them after Nov. 30. The scheme was later extended to include Rossiisky Kredit Bank, with a deadline for transferring deposits from that bank that fell last Friday.

No deadline has as yet been set for allowing Rossiisky Kredit depositors access to transferred funds.

While the 61,000 depositors in MOST-Bank, Promstroibank, Menatep and Mosbiznesbank have had access to their savings since the first week of December, delays struck the transfer of the necessary reserve funds from SBS-Agro and Inkombank to Sberbank. Depositors at those two institutions had been in limbo as November ended. Although the Central Bank had said SBS-Agro depositors could have access to their funds last Friday, it later retracted that pledge.

Sberbank representatives would not comment Thursday on the situation with Inkombank depositors.

Earlier in the week the Russian Consumer Rights Advocacy Group, KONFOP, said that Inkombank depositors are unlikely to get their money any time soon. The same applies to private depositors in Rossiisky Kredit bank, which was added to the deposit transfer scheme later.

The Inkombank transfer is now legally problematic as the bank faces bankruptcy. The Central Bank dropped a temporary administration it briefly imposed and Inkombank's former president, Vladimir Vinogradov, also quit the bank. There is now only a court administration with limited power.

Meanwhile, a Central Bank official told a conference on commercial banks and the crisis that Russia could lose up to half of its banks next year as a result of liquidity problems.

"By our estimates, between one-third to half of banks may leave the market next year," Alexei Simanovsky, head of the Central Bank's supervisory department, said Thursday. "The number of banks will decrease, but we are planning that the number of nonbanking credit organizations will increase."

He said more than half of Russian banks had liquidity or capital problems, adding they needed between 40 billion and 200 billion rubles (between $2 billion and $10 billion) to restore the banking system. The number of Russian banks fell to 1,468 on Dec. 1 from 1,675 on Jan. 1.