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Capital Markets

Kazakh banks hit the capital buffers

Kazakhstan's banking system is a success story whose rapid growth brings a need for capital injections, hence growing foreign interest. But while the banks are operationally transparent, ownership is opaque. What's more, a small population might limit foreign participation beyond investment banking.

Halyk: the retail leader

TIMUR ISSATAYEV, THE chairman of ATF Bank, Kazakhstan's fourth largest, collects old maps of central Asia. There are eight in his spacious office, some dating to the 16th century. "I bought most of them in London and I noticed that they tend to cost half of what comparable maps of Europe cost," he says. "But the dealers tell me they are beginning to appreciate."

Like the maps of this once opaque region, Kazakhstan's banks are beginning to catch European  eyes – not just as borrowers but also as takeover targets. Since 1993, bank numbers have fallen from 230 to 35 but total assets are up from $1 billion to $19 billion.

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