Belarus to allow 50 pct foreign stake in its banks

MINSK, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Belarus's central bank on Thursday doubled the size of the percentage stake which foreign investors are allowed to own in domestic banks, citing growing interest in the sector.

In future, foreign investors will be able to hold up to 50 percent in Belarussian banks, up from a current limit of 25 percent.

Belarus still has a largely command economy inherited from Soviet times, but has talked of allowing more foreign investors in especially after it received its maiden international credit ratings a year ago. Belarus earlier this year signalled an intention to allow at least six foreign investors into the banking sector, including a sale to Commerzbank of a controlling stake in a large bank, Belinvestbank.

It also aims to sell stakes of 10-15 percent of other state banks, including the country's two largest, Belarusbank and Belagroprombank.

"The decision to raise the size of foreign capital was called for by the increase in the interest of foreign strategic investors in the Belarussian banking sector," the central bank said in a statement.

"They are ready to inject cash sources in charter capital, not just in existing banks but also in creating new credit-finance institutions."

At the moment, the state owns over 70 percent of the capital in the country's banking sector. Foreign investors own about 22.2 percent in 29 banks.



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