Belarus to Resume Foreign-Currency Lending


MOSCOWóBelarus's central bank will resume normal procedures for providing foreign currency to lenders, the regulator said Wednesday, a day after the country held talks with Russia on a $3 billion loan to help stave off a devaluation of the Belarussian ruble.

The National Bank of Belarus had said Tuesday it was halting sales of foreign currency to local banks, in what market watchers called an attempt to safeguard the last of the country's dwindling foreign-currency reserves. That followed a decision earlier this month that required banks to book foreign currency sales 30 days in advance.

Analysts said the move indicates Belarus may have received the $3 billion it sought from Moscow, with $1 billion coming from a direct loan Russia and $2 billion from a Russian-led fund for former Soviet states.

A Belarussian delegation visited Moscow Tuesday to discuss the matter, Russia's finance ministry said in a statement, without saying whether any deal had been reached.

Higher prices for Russian oil imports and a sharp boost in government spending have left Belarus with a large trade deficit and have depleted its foreign-exchange reserves by 20% since the end of last year.

Standard & Poor's Corp. last week cut its long-term foreign-currency debt ratings for Belarus to the highly speculative B from B+, warning that the country was rapidly running out of cash.


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