Kazakhstan's best corporate and investment bank 2019: Halyk Bank
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Kazakhstan's best corporate and investment bank 2019: Halyk Bank

Halyk Bank

There is no financial institution in Kazakhstan quite like Halyk Bank. When Moody’s Investors Service surveyed the country’s financial system in September, it pointed to a common complaint: the system is fragmented. Halyk Bank, which has 34% of total banking assets, is the exception to that rule.

The bank was given a vote of confidence by the government in 2017, when it was chosen to play a crucial role in a series of bailouts and consolidations that rescued the banking system, struggling in the wake of a plummeting oil price and a devaluation of the currency.

Halyk absorbed Kazkommertsbank, the biggest bank in the country. It was helped by the government’s willingness to take bad assets off the latter’s book.

Halyk emerged as the undisputed leader in Kazakhstan’s banking system. Its strengths mean it was a strong contender for all of the best bank awards of 2019, but it is in corporate banking where the bank really stands out from the crowd, partly because so many of its rivals are concentrating on the low-touch, high-growth consumer market.

Halyk lent KT9.32 trillion ($24 billion) to its corporate clients in the 12 months to the end of September, representing almost 60% of its gross lending activity. It banks all the main client segments, lending sizeable amounts to the service sector, traders, construction, transport and agriculture.

Kazakhstan’s capital markets are still barely formed, despite the presence of two stock exchanges, but Halyk Bank is doing its bit. The lender, which is already listed on the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange, went for a secondary listing on the newly launched Astana International Stock Exchange (AIX) in early October.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it picked itself as a global coordinator for that deal, but it has also won business from elsewhere. When Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna turned to the London Stock Exchange and the AIX for a sale of depository receipts in September, it picked Halyk to help manage the local tranche. That ended up being the marginally bigger portion of the deal, representing $63.3 million against the $62.9 million raised in London.

Halyk casts a shadow over smaller banks scrambling for business in the country. But unlike Kazkommertsbank, its predecessor atop the domestic banking system, Halyk appears a safe pair of hands to a client base and a domestic economy that desperately needs strong, responsible banks to help Kazakhstan unlock its vast potential.

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