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Fitch Downgrades Novikombank to 'B-', Places on Watch Negative

January 20, 2016 | Cbonds

Fitch Ratings has downgraded JSCB Novikombank's (Novikom) Long-term foreign-currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to 'B-' from 'B', and placed the bank on Rating Watch Negative (RWN). A full list of rating actions is available at the end of this commentary.

The downgrade reflects significantly increased asset quality problems and a lack of adequate capital support from the majority shareholder, Russian Technologies State Corporation (Rostec), to address these. The bank is currently reliant on regulatory forbearance for only gradual provisioning of certain risk exposures to avoid breaching minimal capital ratios, while planned moderate shareholder capital contributions are insufficient to bring the bank back into compliance on a sustained basis.

The RWN reflects Fitch's view of a significant near-term risk of some form of resolution being imposed on the bank, which in turn reflects uncertainty over the ongoing review of the bank by the regulatory authorities. The RWN also reflects uncertainty over (i) the level of problem loans and reserve requirements in Fundservicebank - which was recently acquired by Novikom after failing - and therefore the sufficiency of received government support for the takeover; and (ii) the availability of further aid, should it be needed.

Novikom's asset quality has weakened with NPLs (loans over 90 days overdue) increasing to an estimated 12% at end-1H15 (adjusted for an exposure to Transaero, a large domestic airline, which became an NPL in 4Q15) from 3% at end-2014. A further 2% of loans were overdue by less than 90 days, and at least 5% more were restructured at end-1H15. Loan impairment reserves were equal to 8% of gross loans at end-1H15, covering a moderate 40% of the combined overdue and restructured loans, while the unreserved part amounted to a high 137% of Fitch Core Capital (FCC).

Credit risks are further aggravated by Novikom's significant loan concentrations, with the majority of large exposures being private companies outside of the Rostec group (about 70% of total loans). These are viewed as higher-risk, in particular given their long tenors and/or the generally weak financials of the borrowers. Loans to the Rostec group of companies (around 30% of loans) are somewhat lower risk due to the Defence and Technology sector's strategic importance and potential state support; however, sanctions imposed on these companies could hamper the ability of some of them to service obligations.

Further asset quality risks in Fitch's view may stem from certain foreign bank placements and securities holdings, which together are comparable in volume to the bank's FCC. Fitch's view of the potential risk of the bank placements is driven primarily by these balances having been kept immobile in non-top tier international banks despite risk-weightings of up to 50% which are rather onerous for capital ratios, while the securities are held in foreign depositories despite the 50% provisioning requirement for these exposures from January 2016.

There is also contingent risk from Fundservice, as, Fitch believes, most of its loans (RUB66bn at end-2015) are NPLs with uncertain recovery prospects. The agency estimates that the fair value gain from cheap deposits placed by state Depositary Insurance Agency with Fundservice will be sufficient to reserve its NPLs by about 76%, with the unreserved part amounting to about 120% of Novikom's FCC.

Novikom's capitalisation is tight, with the regulatory Tier 1 ratio of 6.4% at end-11M15 only marginally above the regulatory minimum of 6%. This should also be viewed together with unreserved overdue/restructured loans and other high-risk exposures, which together amounted to a high 260% of FCC.

The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) has allowed Russian banks to reserve their Transaero exposure gradually by end-3Q16. However, given the currently modest available Tier 1 capital buffer of about RUB1.5bn (including unaudited profit for 2H15) and estimated net profit for the 9M16 of RUB2.1bn (this assumes a loan impairment charge of 3% on other loans, comparable to those in 9M15, annualised) the bank will need at least RUB6bn of external capital by end-3Q16 to be able reserve loan to Transaero and securities held in foreign depositaries, as required.

The bank expects a RUB1.6bn equity injection in the form of real estate in 1Q16 and potentially a further, but less certain, equity contribution of RUB1.5bn-RUB2bn in 1Q16-2Q16, which would still be insufficient. Fitch believes Novikom may now be in talks with the regulator over some form of resolution with the help of an external investor, although finding one could be problematic, as the bank itself is under sanctions.

Novikom's liquidity is currently stable, supported by funding from Rostec, although this could become more volatile if the bank's position weakens.

The Support Rating of '5' reflects that support from the majority shareholder, while possible, cannot be relied upon. The Support Rating Floor of 'No Floor' reflects that support from the Russian authorities cannot be relied upon due to Novikom's limited systemic significance.

Novikom's ratings could be downgraded should asset quality, capitalisation and core performance deteriorate further, or if other significant risks arise as a result of the regulatory review.

The ratings could stabilise at their current level, or be upgraded, if the bank receives sufficient capital support, or is taken over by a stronger financial institution.

The rating actions are as follows:

Long-term foreign and local currency IDRs downgraded to 'B-' from 'B', placed on RWN
Short-term foreign-currency IDR 'B' placed on RWN
Viability Rating downgraded to 'b-' from 'b', placed on RWN
Support Rating affirmed at '5'
Support Rating Floor affirmed at 'No Floor'
National Long-term Rating downgraded to 'BB-(rus)' from 'BBB(rus)', placed on RWN
Senior unsecured debt downgraded to 'B-' from 'B'; placed on RWN; Recovery Rating 'RR4'
Senior unsecured debt National Long-term Rating: downgraded to 'BB-(rus); from 'BBB(rus)', placed on RWN


Full company nameJSCB “NOVIKOMBANK”
Country of riskRussia
Country of registrationRussia


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