Austrian watchdog imposes moratorium at Sberbank Europe

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VIENNA, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Austria’s Financial Market Authority (FMA) has imposed a moratorium on Sberbank Europe AG, a unit of Russia’s Sberbank, with immediate effect until March 1, 2022, 11:59 pm, the watchdog said on Monday.

“This measure was necessary because the European Central Bank (ECB), to whose direct supervision it is subject, has indicated to the SRB (Single Resolution Board) that Sberbank Europe AG is in serious economic difficulties and that a failure of the bank (“fail or likely to fail”) is imminent,” it said.

The steps came after Western allies ratcheted up sanctions on Saturday, taking action to banish big Russian banks from the main global payments system SWIFT and announced other measures to limit Moscow’s use of a $630 billion war chest to undermine sanctions after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

“In view of the recent geopolitical developments, several banks of the Sberbank Europe Group experienced a significant outflow of customer deposits within a very short period of time.

This led to longer waiting times in some of the branches and, in some cases, to a restriction of the amount of daily cash withdrawals,” Sberbank Europe said in a statement.

“In order to protect its customers and maintain the critical functions of the bank, Sberbank Europe has been and continues to be in close contact with the responsible regulatory authorities,” Chief Executive Sonja Sarközi said.

“We make every effort and fully support the authorities to use their powers to manage this unprecedented situation in the best interest of our customers,” she added.

Sberbank Europe AG may not make any disbursements, transfers or other transactions during the moratorium, FMA said. Depositors have access to a maximum amount of 100 euros per day.

Deposits up to 100,000 euros ($111,600) continue to be covered by the Austrian deposit guarantee scheme, it added.

(Reporting by Alexandera Schwarz-Goerlich in Vienna and Michael Shields in Switzerland; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Photo – A logo of the largest Russian credit institution Sberbank at its headquarter in Moscow, Russia. EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

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