February 1, 2020 / 1:22 PM / 23 days ago

Azeri central bank says AtaBank has financial stability problems

BAKU, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Azerbaijan’s central bank has identified “serious financial problems” at AtaBank, one of the largest Azeri commercial banks, the central bank chairman has said.

Elman Rustamov told a briefing the problems “associated to financial stability” were detected during a comprehensive audit of AtaBank OJSC. The audit was completed at the end of 2019.

“The bank once issued a large number of loans with high risk which led to a deterioration in its position,” Rustamov said on Friday.

Azerbaijan has a relatively small banking sector, with 30 banks. But the bailout three years ago of state-run International Bank of Azerbaijan cost the budget billions of dollars.

Rustamov said the central bank had prepared proposals on AtaBank’s recovery and submitted them to the Financial Stability Board.

He denied that the bank, which is owned by Azeri Synergy Group — one of the country’s largest private investment companies — and some private individuals, was about to close down.

AtaBank merged with the Azeri Caspian Development Bank in April 2017. Its capital is 600 million manats ($353 million).

Fitch Ratings withdrew AtaBank’s CCC/C long- and short-term issuer default ratings in June 2018, after the lender stopped participating in the agency’s rating process.

$1=1.7 manats Reporting by Nailia Bagirova; writing by Margarita Antidze; editing by Clelia Oziel

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