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Emerging Europe: EBRD keeps its appetite for risk

From Moldova to Mongolia, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has earned a reputation for going where other institutions fear to tread. Now it is putting its balance sheet to work plugging holes in banks’ capital bases.

Nick Tesseyman-600

Nick Tesseyman, the EBRD’s head of financial institutions

Not many investors would be prepared to double down on a banking sector two months after its largest lenders were involved in a fraud that siphoned off more than 10% of the country’s GDP. Or, for that matter, on a bank without a functioning supervisory board.

Yet that is precisely what the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has done in Moldova. In January 2015, the multilateral announced plans to increase its stake in Victoriabank in a bid to provide the chaotic eastern European state with at least one respectable banking institution.

After several setbacks, including an attempt by the Moldovan government to prevent the sale going through, the EBRD succeeded in buying a further 12.5% of the troubled bank in June this year. It is now battling to implement a new governance structure, in the teeth of opposition from a mysterious Cyprus-based entity that still owns 39% of the bank.

“We want to demonstrate that it is possible to have a well-managed bank operating in Moldova on commercial terms and serving the local economy,” says Nick Tesseyman, the EBRD’s head of financial institutions.