The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is extending its first-ever local currency loans in Belarus by providing lines of credit to its long-term financial intermediaries Minsk Transit Bank (MTBank) and Belarusky Narodny Bank (BNB-Bank) for on-lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the country.
MTBank and BNB-Bank, both well-established providers of SME finance in Belarus, will each receive credit lines of up to US$10 million (in BYN equivalent) from the EBRD.
In a country where the population is just under 10 million people, the SME sector plays a very important role. There are over 112,000 local SMEs in Belarus, which are responsible for almost a quarter of the country’s GDP and employ around 1.5 million people. They also contribute to 42 per cent of the country’s external trade. The support and development of SMEs has been identified as one of the key priorities by the government of Belarus and the EBRD, which is offering both financial and knowledge transfer assistance to local small businesses.
Alex Pivovarsky, EBRD Head of Belarus, said: “Local currency lending and the development of local capital markets are among main objectives the EBRD has in the region and here in Belarus. Today we are signing two landmark transactions with our partners from MTBank and BNB-Bank, which will pave the way for more similar projects in the future and will bring much-needed resources to domestic SMEs.”
The project with MTBank and BNB-Bank will help limit FX-related risks for borrowers with local currency revenues and will offer loans with longer maturities to clients in Belarus. Both banks will also be able to further develop their SME lending portfolios. It is expected that other banks in Belarus will join the EBRD local currency lending initiative in near future.
Stimulating local currency lending is also one of the key priorities of the European Union and its EU4Business initiative, and has been identified as one of the Eastern Partnership’s 20 Deliverables for 2020.