Russian banks made record $31bn in profit last year
Russian banks made record $31bn in profit last year

MOSCOW: Russian banks made a record 2.4 trillion roubles ($31 billion) of profit last year as an economic rebound revived loans growth and boosted interest in real estate assets, the central bank said on Friday.

Strong oil prices helped Russia's economy to grow by 4.5% last year, officials have said, after a 2.7% contraction the previous year because of low commodities prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, banking sector profits jumped by 50% from 1.6 trillion roubles in 2020, the central bank said. Corporate loans expanded by 11.7%, retail lending grew by 23% and the mortgage portfolio showed a more than 30% increase.

Demand for real estate in Russia has boomed since 2020, when the central bank tried to support the construction sector - and banks exposed - via state-backed mortgages during the pandemic.

The state began rolling those back last July and, though it raised the key interest rate seven times to 8.5% last year, the central bank said it sees no sign of the sector overheating.

This year, the regulator forecasts banking sector profit at over 2 trillion roubles but less than in 2021, said Alexander Danilov, director of the banking regulation and analytics department, as tight monetary policy puts the brakes on lending.

Yields on the government's rouble-denominated OFZ bonds spiked this month as tensions escalated between Russia and the West over Ukraine, but the central bank sees limited risk to the banking sector from an OFZ sell-off. Bond yields move inversely to prices.

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