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Sberbank sets more aside to cover potential bad loans

An exterior view shows the headquarters of Sberbank of Russia during the annual general shareholders' meeting of the bank in Moscow, May 31,
An exterior view shows the headquarters of Sberbank of Russia during the annual general shareholders' meeting of the bank in Moscow, May 31,

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's biggest lender, Sberbank , has doubled the amount of money it sets aside to cover potential bad loans, seeking to protect itself against any deterioration in borrowers' ability to repay in a slowing economy.

However, the bank also said on Monday that the quality of its loan portfolio had so far not got any worse, with overdue loans accounting for 2.48 percent of the total in September, compared with 2.54 percent at the same time last year.

Russian banks have piled into high-margin consumer lending in recent years to offset a slowdown in corporate borrowing.

But they have been required by regulators to set aside more money to cover their risks, potentially weakening their capital position, while a slowing economy has raised fears that customers will struggle to repay their debts.

"We have adapted our risk underwriting to accommodate for some of the quality deterioration in the incoming loan applications flow," said Sberbank Senior Vice President Anton Karamzin.

"It is (about) paying a lot of attention to ... credit risk, watching for problems earlier, fixing them earlier," he said. "In retail particularly, (it is about) increasing the standard of requirements of the credit we're prepared to underwrite."

State-controlled Sberbank said its net profit amounted to 286.2 billion roubles ($8.9 billion) in the nine months to September 30, up 6 percent, as net interest income rose 15 percent to 518.3 billion roubles.

Total provisions jumped to 83.5 billion from 39.5 billion a year ago, said Sberbank, which recently trimmed its full-year profit guidance.

The results were calculated according to Russian accounting standards (RAS), seen as a guide to its performance under international reporting standards.

Reporting under RAS is generally seen as less transparent than international standards because it reflects parent company earnings rather than a group's consolidated financial performance.

(Reporting by Oksana Kobzeva and Megan Davies; Writing by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter)

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