Halyk takes the hot seat in Kazakhstan
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Halyk takes the hot seat in Kazakhstan

Cautious Halyk Bank has been largely immune from the upheavals that have shaken the Kazakh banking sector; will buying troubled market leader KKB bring an end to the group’s bull run or create a new regional player?

Sweet proposition: The Halyk Bank logo on promotional chocolate bars

Kazakhstan’s biggest banks have a habit of coming to sticky ends. BTA Bank famously collapsed in the wake of the financial crisis and defaulted on $16.7 billion of external debt. Its former chief executive, Mukhtar Ablyazov, fled Kazakhstan in late 2009 and is wanted in multiple jurisdictions for fraud and embezzlement. 

Next to be hailed as a new national champion was Kazkommertsbank (KKB), which took over the remains of BTA in 2014 after a second default by the nationalized lender. The ink was barely dry on the deal, however, before the Kazakh economy was hit by the oil price collapse and a subsequent massive currency devaluation

By the end of last year, KKB was sinking under a mounting pile of its own bad debts as well as those inherited from BTA. Faced with the painful prospect of either letting the country’s largest bank fail or nationalizing it, Kazakh policymakers looked around for a potential buyer. 

The obvious choice was Halyk Bank, Kazakhstan’s number two lender. Under the canny and cautious leadership of Umut Shayakhmetova, who took over as chief executive in January 2009, Halyk managed to emerge relatively unscathed from both the global financial crisis and the turmoil of 2015.

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