IFIs as a separate type of issuers in the capital market

Extra yield at almost sovereign risk

International Financial Institutions (IFIs) are quasi-sovereign issuers in the ruble market. Despite a long history of IFIs tapping the ruble bond market — the first ruble-denominated bond issue was placed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 2005 — their share in the Russian bond market remains quite small. However, the issuance dynamics in recent years, especially in 2020, have been quite impressive.

According to ACRA, IFIs’ intensified activity both in the ruble and global bond markets was due to their participation in financing anti-crisis measures of the shareholder countries in 2020, growth in lending to infrastructure projects, and an increased role of national currencies in lending. The Agency does not expect the volume of IFIs’ issues in 2021 to grow at a pace comparable to the previous year due to the expected recovery of economic growth in the shareholder countries and their reduced need for anti-crisis financing.

Bond yields of those IFIs that entered the ruble market in 2020 slightly exceeded that of Russian state OFZ bonds, offering investors a premium to Russia’s sovereign risk. ACRA believes that the premium is partly due to the lower liquidity of these issues compared to OFZs, which among other factors reflects the fact that bonds issued by the IFIs are not part of the Central Bank of Russia’s Lombard List. All the banks, except Interstate Bank, have the highest possible ACRA rating — AAA(RU) — under the national scale. However, their credit quality under the international scale differs.

A relatively low level of credit risk is ensured by the business model under which IFIs operate. The characteristics of this model include very high adequacy of paid-in capital, reinforced by the shareholder countries’ obligations to replenish it in case IFIs need extraordinary support, and a significant liquidity cushion. In addition, IFIs enjoy preferred lender status, which implies priority servicing of their loans compared to those provided by other lenders. These financial stability mechanisms compensate for potential problems with IFIs’ assets, which often arise due to countercyclical lending to countries where the economic situation deteriorates in crises, as well as financing of long-term and complex infrastructure projects, which commercial banks do not often attempt to implement.

IFIs’ role in the global financial system

IFIs are an important part of the international financial system. Being a source of long-term money, IFIs allow countries (both shareholders and others) to mobilize resources for long-term strategic projects, and contribute to the introduction and growth of best practices when it comes to the implementation of structural reforms and development of new areas in lending (for example, green financing). In addition, IFIs’ activities have a countercyclical function: during economic downturns and slowdown in the investment activity of residents, IFIs, as a rule, maintain or increase the volume of their portfolios, and thereby support economic activity in the countries where they operate.

For Russia, participation in regional international development institutions is currently an alternative to global IFIs (for example, EBRD), which practically curtailed their operations in Russia after sanctions were introduced in 2014.

In this research, IFIs (also referred to as development banks or banks) are considered as objects of ACRA’s rating process in accordance with the Methodology for Assigning Credit Ratings under the International Scale to International Financial Institutions and Other Supranational Development Institutions. These include Eurasian Development Bank (EDB), New Development Bank (NDB), Interstate Bank (ISB) 1, International Investment Bank (IIB), International Bank for Economic Co-operation (IBEC), and Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) (Appendix 1). These IFIs finance various projects in Russia, which is one of their key shareholders.


1 Its business model is different from that of the other IFIs rated by ACRA. The main objective of the business model is to facilitate settlements between the shareholder countries, and not to carry out credit activities.

In recent years, these IFIs have started to actively grow their portfolios (Fig. 1 and 2). In ACRA’s opinion, this is due to increased lending to infrastructure projects and the participation of IFIs in lending in national currencies, as well as the implementation of anti-crisis measures of the shareholder countries in 2020 (through the purchase of sovereign bonds and provision of loans to the governments of the shareholder countries). For example, IIB invested in government bonds of Romania and Hungary. NDB approved a USD 10 bln Emergency Assistance Program, which consists of USD 2 bln loans to the government of each shareholder. By the end of 2020, NDB had provided USD 4 bln. EDB, as a manager of the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development, administered the provision of the fund’s loans to Belarus (USD 500 mln), Kyrgyzstan (USD 100 mln), and Tajikistan (USD 50 mln).

Figure 1. IFIs’ total assets, USD bln

Source: IFIs’ reporting

IFIs’ intensified activity in the ruble market

The capital market is the main source of funds for financing IFIs, since they usually do not take client funds for deposits and do not have access to central bank liquidity facilities (EDB’s access to the liquidity of the National Bank of Kazakhstan is rather an exception). The bonds of IFIs are specific and at the same time a common asset class in the global capital market. In terms of risk and yield characteristics, they tend to be close to sovereign bonds and are an attractive instrument for conservative investors to diversify their investments.

Until recently, this type of issuer was very scarce in the Russian capital market. The first ruble-denominated bond issue was placed by EBRD in 2005, and among the IFIs rated by ACRA — by EDB in 2012. Although the share of these issuers in the Russian bond market remains quite small, ACRA points to a positive dynamics of the volume of issues in recent years, especially in 2020.

The share of these IFIs’ issues out of total outstanding ruble-denominated bond issues in the domestic market grew from 0.1% in 2012 to 0.4% as of the end of 2020. The volume of issues has also increased — from RUB 10 bln in 2015 to RUB 46 bln as of 2020. In ACRA’s opinion, both trends are due to the IFIs striving to diversify their portfolios of liabilities in the currency of the countries where they operate, particularly Russia, to finance projects in the national currency. The key characteristics of the outstanding ruble-denominated bonds issued by the IFIs (rated by ACRA) are listed in Appendix 2.

Figure 2. IFIs’ ruble-denominated bonds issued in the domestic market, RUB bln

Source: Refinitiv

In 2021, ACRA does not expect the volume of issues placed by IFIs to increase to an extent comparable to 2020 due to the expected recovery of economic growth in the shareholder countries and a decrease in their need for anti-crisis financing. The Agency believes that after 2021 the size of IFIs’ issue volumes in the ruble market will be in line with their long-term lending programs. EDB announced plans to raise RUB 10 bln in 2021, NDB registered a RUB 100 bln bond program, while IBEC registered a RUB 70 bln program. In 2021, the latter IFI’s issue volume is estimated at RUB 5–7 bln.

All the banks, except ISB 2, have the highest possible rating that can be assigned by ACRA under the national scale for the Russian Federation — AAA(RU). As can be seen from Table 1, in 2020 their bonds traded at a slightly higher level than OFZs with the comparable maturity. Higher yields of the IFIs’ bonds compared to OFZs envisage an additional premium for investors, which is likely due to the lower liquidity of these issues compared to OFZs reflecting the absence of IFIs’ bonds in the Central Bank of Russia’s Lombard List.


2 The credit rating assigned by ACRA to ISB under the national scale for the Russian Federation is AA(RU).

Table 1. Characteristics of certain ruble-denominated IFIs’ issues in 2020

Issuer

Placement date

Maturity date

Issue volume, RUB bln

Coupon, %

Issue yield, %

Spread to OFZs, bps

EDB

May 28, 2020

May 23, 2024

10.0

5.9%

6.03%

112

IBEC

June 15, 2020

June 3, 2030

5.0

6.2%

6.3%

67

IIB

September 11, 2020

March 10, 2023

7.0

5.95%

6.08%

151

Sources: Refinitiv, ACRA

Although the IFIs rated by ACRA have the highest credit rating under the national scale for the Russian Federation, they have different credit quality under the international scale (Appendix 1). These differences stem from the combination of strengths and weaknesses of each of the development banks in terms of credit risk, as well as ACRA’s opinion regarding the combination of the IFIs’ fundamental characteristics and the shareholders’ credit quality. Next, we will look at the credit strengths and weaknesses of these banks.

IFIs’ business model

A relatively low level of credit risk is ensured by the business model according to which IFIs operate. The characteristics of this model include very high adequacy of paid-in capital, underpinned by the obligations of shareholder countries to replenish it to the level of authorized capital, and significant liquidity cushions. The difference between authorized capital and paid-in capital is called callable capital, which the shareholder countries are committed to provide in line with the approved procedures. In addition, IFIs enjoy preferred lender status, which implies priority in servicing their loans compared to those provided by other lenders 3.


3 Loans provided by IFIs to sovereign governments usually have preferred status.

IFIs need these financial stability mechanisms because the tasks which shareholders set them involve financing long-term and mainly non-commercial projects, as well as countercyclical financing of countries where the economic situation becomes challenging during downturns. These tasks usually have a negative impact on their asset quality and result in a high level of concentration on individual countries and borrowers.

In addition, IFIs function outside the framework of the banking regulation of individual countries and consequently do not usually have access to the liquidity of central banks and cannot use deposits to fund their operations. However, there are some exceptions. For example, EDB has access to liquidity provided by the National Bank of Kazakhstan, and IBEC offers deposits to its clients. In addition, considering the specifics of their operations, IFIs tend to maintain a significant liquidity cushion, which also supports their creditworthiness. Securing maximum profit is not their task, which means that profit is not one of the main sources that these banks can draw from to replenish capital. At the same time, the abovementioned IFIs do not usually pay dividends, which makes it possible to fully use profit to replenish capital.

Factors of support

Extraordinary support from shareholder countries

The willingness and ability of key shareholders to support banks during times of crisis is a factor that underpins IFIs’ ratings.

A key factor, though not the exhaustive one, is the contractual obligations of shareholders to replenish the bank’s paid-in capital to the authorized capital level. The size of authorized capital is often indicated in the constituent documents of IFIs and serves as a guideline for how large the bank’s safety cushion is in relation to its potential liabilities. The more support a bank can count on, the higher this safety cushion is, and thus the better prepared the bank is for potential difficulties.

Tables 2–3 show that the majority of IFIs rated by ACRA have authorized capital that is either comparable to or exceeds their potential liabilities, showing a good margin of safety for the bank in case of problems with repayment of liabilities. In 2019 and 2020, ISB had the lowest ratio of authorized capital to liabilities. This is because this IFI does not provide lending, which explains its low need for capital to facilitate financing of potential projects. At the same time, the overall capital adequacy of ISB remains high.

Table 2. Authorized capital adequacy (ratio of authorized capital to assets, not weighted by risk 4, %

 

EDB

NDB 

ISB*

IIB

IBEC

BSTDB

2019

136.0

846.0

1.5 *

147.2

61.5

146.9

2020

125.0

530.0

1.3

123.4

49.1

122.8

* Its capital is made up primarily of perpetual subordinate debt from the shareholders and undistributed profit.
Source: IFIs’ reporting

Table 3. Authorized capital adequacy (ratio of authorized capital to liabilities), %

 

EDB

NDB 

ISB*

IIB

IBEC

BSTDB

2019

211.4

6063.4

2.9 *

210.3

118.4

227.3

2020

188

1175.0

2.2

171.5

80.3

175.5

* Its capital is made up primarily of perpetual subordinate debt from the shareholders and undistributed profit.
Source: IFIs’ reporting


4 Not all of the IFIs in question publish the size of their capital weighted by risk, and that is why the ratios are calculated for assets not weighted by risk.

However, for an IFI’s financial stability, it is important not only to have a cushion in the form of authorized capital, but also to have reliable and effective mechanisms for drawing this capital. The more reliable these mechanisms are, the more likely it is that shareholders will rescue the bank in a difficult situation and will provide financing in full and on time.

In 2014, EDB’s shareholder countries increased the bank’s callable capital to USD 5.5 bln, which led to an increase in the authorized capital to USD 7 bln and significantly strengthened the bank’s safety cushion.

Some development banks rated by ACRA have their own procedures related to unpaid (callable) capital. For example, BSTDB’s charter includes a requirement for any withdrawing shareholder to fulfill all its outstanding financial obligations to the bank, thereby protecting the bank from potential financial problems associated with a departing shareholder. IBEC, the authorized capital of which is higher than its paid-in capital, does not have standard procedures regulating the order under which the shareholder countries should replenish the bank’s capital, should the need arise. The mitigating factor is the successful relaunch of this IFI in 2018, which shows the interest the shareholder countries have in the development of interstate trade relations using the bank. Hungary, which previously withdrew from IBEC’s shareholders, is considering the possibility of restoring its membership, which, according to ACRA, is an additional positive factor that should help strengthen the financial cushion of this development bank.

In addition to contractual obligations, shareholder countries generally have certain non-contractual obligations, which indicate their propensity to support the bank. These include timely replenishment of paid-in capital, performance of certain additional functions by banks that are important for the shareholder countries, as well as a reputational risk for shareholder countries in case a bank defaults.

Of all the development banks rated by ACRA, BSTDB experienced delays in capital replenishments, which have now been fully resolved.

Two out of the six development banks manage funds formed by shareholder countries.

  • IBEC manages the International Fund for Technological Development established to promote cooperation with the IBEC member countries and reduce barriers to the dissemination of advanced technologies that contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals. The fund is funded by contributions from the Russian government and it is planned that in 2022 its volume will amount to EUR 200 mln. In September 2020, the fund received the first tranche worth EUR 50 mln.
  • EDB administers the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development worth USD 8.5 bln. The fund was established in 2009 based on member countries’ contributions. The fund’s purpose is to support the macroeconomic stability of shareholder countries through provision of loans to the governments.

In addition to the shareholder countries’ willingness to support development banks, another important aspect is their ability to provide support, which is assessed by ACRA as the weighted average of the shareholders’ creditworthiness. The ability of the shareholder countries to support the banks varies considerably, reflecting both the countries’ equity share and their creditworthiness. When assigning a credit rating to a development bank, ACRA takes into account credit risk associated with the shareholders. However, in most cases the IFI’s rating is not constrained by the creditworthiness of its key shareholders. Of the six IFIs rated by ACRA, the weighted credit rating (credit estimate) of shareholders serves as the ceiling only for ISB.

High capital adequacy

All six IFIs rated by ACRA maintain a very high level of capital adequacy, which considerably exceeds both the actual and regulatory values (according to Basel Committee recommendations) of these indicators at commercial banks (Table 4).

ACRA notes that in 2020, there was a trend toward a decrease in the capital adequacy ratio of IFIs due growth in loan and investment portfolios. Despite this, the capital adequacy of these IFIs remains high.

The Agency expects the IFIs to maintain a high level of capital adequacy in the near future due to the specific mission of development banks.

Table 4. Capital adequacy (ratio of equity to assets not weighted by risk), %

 

EDB

NDB

ISB

IIB

IBEC

BSTDB

2019

35.8

86.0

48.0

30.0

48.1

35.4

2020

33.6

54.8

41.7

28.0

38.9

30.0

Source: IFIs’ reporting

Significant liquidity cushion

Liquid assets are several times higher than short-term liabilities at most development banks, which means they demonstrate high or very high levels of liquidity. This is because IFIs generally cannot count on attracting deposits and/or liquidity from the national central banks, and in the event of unfavorable financial conditions they need a significant supply of funds for the timely and full repayment of liabilities. A liquidity cushion allows the banks to service their current liabilities even in conditions of refinancing problems in debt markets.

Table 5. Ratio of high-quality short-terms assets* to short-term liabilities**, %

 

EDB

NDB

ISB

IIB

IBEC

BSTDB

2018

305

4289

198

109

117

150

2019

198

293

191

86

95

122

2020

302

168

171

96

88

146

* Short-term high-quality assets include up to 1-month loans to banks, but exclude repurchase transactions and financial assets rated lower than ВВ- by global rating agencies.
** Liabilities due within a year.
Source: IFIs’ reporting

The table above shows that the banks’ short-term assets exceed their short-term liabilities. However, as IFIs increase their operations, they begin to use their liquidity to provide loans, as a result the ratio of assets to liabilities may decrease (this, in particular, explains the decline in the ratio for NDB in 2019 compared to 2018).

Table 6. Share of highly liquid assets* in total assets, %

 

EDB

NDB

ISB

IIB

IBEC

BSTDB

2018

41

11

89

21

29

36

2019

54

26

99

27

33

33

2020

58

38

99

25

31

42

* Short-term high-quality assets include up to 1-month loans to banks, but exclude repurchase transactions and financial assets rated lower than ВВ- by global rating agencies.
Source: IFIs’ reporting

The share of highly liquid assets in the total volume of short-term assets of IFIs is quite high, which is understandable given the objectives of these financial institutions. In 2018–2020, the share of liquid assets in most of the analyzed banks ranged from 11% to 58% (Table 6). The only exception was ISB: the very high share of its liquid assets is explained by its role as a settlement institution for the shareholder countries. This role implies a significant share of interbank loans and Russia’s sovereign bonds in the bank’s portfolio, and does not imply corporate lending.

Risk factors

Significant geographic concentration of investments

The specifics of the tasks that shareholder countries set for development banks often result in the concentration of their loan portfolios and investments on a narrow range of countries and borrowers. The concentration level, however, varies considerably.

Russia is the largest country in terms of IFI lending and investment operations for EDB, IBEC and ISB. In the first case (EDB and IBEC) this is explained by the country’s rather significant share in the equity of the banks, and in the second (ISB) — by the business model, according to which the bank’s activities are fully concentrated on Russia. The situation is different with IIB and BSTDB, where the equity share of Russia is smaller and therefore other countries account for a significant share of the business (Table 7).

Table 7. Country concentration, % of total financial assets

 

Borrower

EDB

NDB

ISB

IIB*

IBEC

BSTDB

2017

Largest borrower country

38.7
(Russia)

66.6 (China)

 >90
(Russia)

19.1
(Russia)

31.69
(Russia)

23.5
(Turkey)

Russian Federation

38.7

7.4

>90

19.1

31.69

15.5

2018

Largest borrower country

50.4
(Russia)

49.1 (China)

>90
(Russia)

13.7

(Bulgaria)

37.11
(Russia)

22.5
(Turkey)

Russian Federation

50.4

18.9

>90

12.1

37.11

9.4

2019

Largest borrower country

38.1
(Russia)

38.2 (China)

>92
(Russia)

14
(Russia)

31.6 (Russia)

22.7
(Turkey)

Russian Federation

38.1

26.2

>92

14

31.6

11.8

2020

Largest borrower country

36

(Russia)

35.7

(India)

>90
(Russia)

11.7 (Romania)

21.87

(Russia)

23.1
(Turkey)

Russian Federation

36

13.8

>90

10.4

21.87

15.6

* Among countries that disclose IFRS financial statements.
Source: IFIs’ reporting

As seen from the table above, the level of concentration of the analyzed banks’ loan portfolios on certain countries (including Russia) has not undergone significant changes in recent years. ACRA does not expect this state of affairs to change in the future.

However, there are factors that mitigate the risks associated with high geographic concentration. For a number of banks, the negative impact of asset concentration is reduced due to the fact that a significant proportion of loans are issued by them either directly to sovereign borrowers or with state guarantees.

As of the end of 2020, loans to sovereign borrowers accounted for the lion’s share in the loan portfolio of NDB, while EDB and IIB provided a significant amount of loans secured by state guarantees (Table 8). Note that loans provided to sovereign borrowers and loans issued to development banks under sovereign guarantees have privileged status.

Table 8. Loans to sovereign borrowers and loans issued under state guarantees, % of loan portfolio

 

EDB

NDB

ISB

IIB

IBEC

BSTDB

2019

18.1

N/A

N/A

14.2

4.3

N/A

2020

19.2

88.7

N/A

8.17

1.8

N/A

Source: IFIs’ reporting

Non-performing loans of IFIs

The quality of IFIs’ assets is directly related to the fact that shareholder countries set a goal for development banks to ensure lending to non-profit projects throughout the entire economic cycle, including during crises. Countercyclical lending can lead to an increase in the volume of problem loans (Table 9), in which ACRA includes not only loans overdue by more than 90 days, but also impaired and restructured liabilities. Nevertheless, the relatively high level of problem loans at development banks may have a moderate impact on their financial results.

EDB stood out with 10% of its loan portfolio classified as non-performing as of the end of 2019, although it significantly decreased during the previous years. A significant part of these loans is covered by state guarantees, which reduces the possible losses of the bank in the event that borrowers have difficulties with repayment.

The significant volume of non-performing loans of IBEC in 2017 was mainly due to a period of stagnation in the bank’s activities, and partially due to the bank’s emphasis on lending to private sector in previous years. However, the sharp decline in the share of non-performing loans since 2018 was caused by the relaunch of the bank and the resolution taken by its shareholders, which allowed the new management to write off about EUR 39.2 mln of impaired loans.

ISB is on the other side of the spectrum in terms of the size of non-performing loans. The bank’s business model does not imply active lending. As a result, the share of the loans is low in the bank’s assets, and the credit quality of those loans does not have a tangible effect on the bank’s financial performance.

As of year-end 2020, NDB did not have any non-performing loans as the bank recently started its active financing operations. ACRA believes that the quality of NDB’s loan book will be tested as it continues to expand its lending business.

In general, ACRA does not rule out that in 2020–2021 the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic may adversely affect the financial standing of a number of the IFIs’ borrowers.

As for coverage of problem debts by reserves (Table 10), the banks generally try to maintain a relatively high volume of reserves. The EDB’s low level of reserves is due to the presence of state guarantees for the outstanding debts of certain borrowers classified as problematic.

Table 9. Share of non-performing loans*, % of loans

 

EDB

NDB

ISB

IIB

IBEC

BSTDB

2017

27.2

0.0

0.0

4.5

64.0

5.4

2018

18.1

0.0

0.0

1.9

0.0

3.2

2019

10.5

0.0

0.0

1.6

0.0

2.8

2020

5.0

0.0

0.0

2.4

2.0

3.8

* Non-performing loans are Stage 3 loans, including impaired and restructured loans and NPL90+.
Source: IFIs’ reporting

Table 10. Reserve coverage for non-performing loans, %

 

EDB

NDB

ISB

IIB

IBEC

BSTDB

2017

13.0

0.0

0.0

40.0

100.0

74.0

2018

15.6

0.0

0.0

100.0

0.0

65.0

2019

17.3

0.0

0.0

100.0

0.0

68.0

2020

34.5

0.0

0.0

10.0

100.0

48.0

Source: IFIs’ reporting

Appendix 1. ACRA’s ratings assigned under the international scale and the national scale for the Russian Federation

Bank

Purpose

ACRA’s rating under the international scale

ACRA’s rating under the national scale

IBEC

Established in 1963 to promote trade within the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA), with payments made in transferable rubles, and reformed in 2018.

А-

ААА(RU)

IIB

Established in 1970 to finance major integrational projects and reformed in 2012.

А

ААА(RU)

ISB

Established in 1993 by certain CIS countries to promote trade and settlements after introduction of own currencies by member states.

ВВВ+

АА(RU)

BSTDB

Established in 1997 to promote the economic growth and cooperation between the Black Sea countries.

А+

ААА(RU)

EDB

Established in 2006 to promote integration in Eurasia.

А-

ААА(RU)

NDB

Established in 2014 by BRICS to finance sustainable development infrastructure projects.

ААА

ААА(RU)

Source: IFIs’ reporting

Appendix 2. IFIs’ ruble-denominated bonds rated by ACRA

Issue

ISIN

Coupon, %

Placement date

Put option date

Maturity date

Outstanding,
RUB

ACRA’s rating
(national scale)

EDB

EDB 8.0% 10.01.2023

RU000A100JC1

8.0

16.07.2019

No

10.01.2023

5,000,000,000

AAA(RU)

EDB 7.6% 18.04.2023

RU000A101L54

7.6

21.04.2020

No

18.04.2023

5,000,000,000

AAA(RU)

EDB 6.8% 09.06.2023

RU000A101574

6.8

13.12.2019

No

09.06.2023

8,000,000,000

AAA(RU)

EDB 5.9% 23.05.2024

RU000A101PK9

5.9

28.05.2020

No

23.05.2024

10,000,000,000

AAA(RU)

Total

 

 

 

 

 

28,000,000,000

 

IIB

IIB 5.95% 10.03.2023

RU000A1023H7

5.95

11.09.2020

No

10.03.2023

7,000,000,000

AAA(RU)

IIB 6.75% 16.05.2023

RU000A101MZ4

6.75

19.05.2020

No

16.05.2023

7,000,000,000

AAA(RU)

IIB 7.75% 23.04.2025

RU000A101LN2

7.75

29.04.2020

No

23.04.2025

5,000,000,000

AAA(RU)

IIB 7.75% 23.04.2025

RU000A101LM4

7.75

29.04.2020

No

23.04.2025

7,000,000,000

AAA(RU)

Total

 

 

 

 

 

26,000,000,000

 

IBEC

IBEC 6.2% 03.06.2030

RU000A101RJ7

6.2

15.06.2020

14.06.2024

03.06.2030

5,000,000,000

AAA(RU)

Total

 

 

 

 

 

5,000,000,000

 

Total

 

 

 

 

 

59,000,000,000

 

Source: ACRA

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