FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Euro zone banks have only limited direct exposure to the Russian economy, the European Central Bank’s top supervisor Andrea Enria said on Tuesday, adding that no blanket ban on dividends was on the cards.
Shares in euro zone banks have fallen sharply since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, with those lenders with business in Eastern Europe, such as Raiffeisen Bank International, seeing the steepest falls.
Enria sought to reassure investors about the direct hit to euro zone banks and dismissed a blanket ban on dividends, such as the one imposed at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Exposures of euro area banks to credit, securities and derivatives appear contained,” Enria said at an online event.
He added that even in a scenario in which banks walked away from their Russian subsidiaries, the hit would be “manageable, given the currently solid group capital position”.
Reuters reported earlier this month RBI was prepared to leave Russia, where it has had a subsidiary since the early 1990s which it values at 2.4 billion euros ($2.64 billion).
RBI has since suspended its dividend and some investors have speculated that the ECB could force all banks to follow suit.
Enria said an expected increase in bank payouts this year was “broadly acceptable” in light of the restrictions imposed at the height of the pandemic and the ECB would decide on each dividend or buyback “on an individual basis”.
Russia describes its actions as a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and unseat leaders it calls neo-Nazis. Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice that has raised fears of wider conflict in Europe.
(Reporting by Francesco Canepa and Balazs Koranyi, Editing by Louise Heavens)
FILE PHOTO: Andrea Enria, chairperson of the European Banking Authority, speaks at Reuters Summit interview in London, Britain, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde