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EghtesadOnline: Even though a handful of Iranian banks are fighting formidable challenges, including unhealthy balance sheets and thin capital cushions, they are not facing any existential threats, said a Central Bank of Iran official in response to recent claims that the financial system is nearing bankruptcy.

“At present, a number of banks are facing problems like capital shortage, accumulation of souring assets and non-performing loans higher than international standards and this has caused them to generate little profit in the past two years,” admitted Abbas Kamarei, CBI’s director general for supervision over banks and credit institutions, reported.

 “CBI is exerting oversight on their performance as the supervising entity and their bankruptcy is something that will not take place easily,” he added.

Noting that bankruptcy of banks differs from that of companies, the official pointed to measures considered in international banking instructions to prevent bankruptcy, namely structural reforms and merging, according to Financial Tribune.

CBI, under the leadership of Valiollah Seif, has been striving to kick-start major reforms in the banking system, including introducing the Banking Reform Bill and the Central Bank Bill that are yet to find their way to the parliament.

On the other hand, the idea of bank mergers has been floated more seriously recently, with Seif confirming the possibility earlier this month.

In a reference to the reform measures, which also include installing a new grand system of supervision over banks and credit institutions, Kamarei said CBI has been working in tandem with the administration of President Hassan Rouhani and the parliament to review the challenges ahead and “employ reformative policies”.

  Combating Shadow Banking

Reflecting Kamarei’s comments, the central bank also published a statement on its official news website, ensuring the people that all is well with the banking system, especially in light of the recent ruckus surrounding uncertified credit institutions.  

The statement said unnamed “enemies” are trying to fan the flames of “false news and rumors” to link the problems in uncertified institutions to the banking system as a whole.

Unlicensed institutions, which are active in the informal money market, reportedly hold 25% of the entire liquidity. They proliferated during the tenure of the former administration and have continued to be the bane of banks.

In its statement, CBI firmly rejects all the “untrue claims that have been raised” and emphasized that the banking system is propelling forward at “full strength”.

It notes that the aforementioned institutions began their activities without obtaining a license from the central bank and got their permits from other organizations such as the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare and the Police Department and lured the public by offering sky-high interest on deposits.

Even though CBI tried to advise them and strived to increase their transparency while warning the public of the risks, they brought themselves to ruin, which resulted in many angry customers demanding their money back and prompted CBI to merge eight cooperatives to form the certified Caspian institution with the goal of returning the deposits.

Farshad Heydari, the central bank’s deputy for supervisory affairs, also made a television appearance to discuss the issue of uncertified institutions.

“The current fiscal year (ending March 20, 2018) will be the year the illegal money market will be organized for good,” he said.

Heydari noted that on the strength of the sixth development plan’s banking regulations, which give significant powers to CBI, the activities of illegal institutions will be regulated and allowed in a new framework.

The bank-related regulatory articles of the sixth five-year development plan (2017-22) were communicated to the banking system in tandem with a series of permanent regulations to help achieve the objectives of the plan in late May.

As part of the new regulations, the Money and Credit Council–a decision-making body–gave the central bank extra authority in addition to its legal mandate to implement “complete and all-encompassing oversight over monetary and banking institutions” and to “organize the informal monetary institutions and market”.

CBI Central Bank of Iran Iran banks Iran financial system Abbas Kamarei