Gref Asks Central Bank to Accept Mortgages as Collateral

Russia’s central bank should expand its collateral base and accept a broader range of assets including mortgages in refinancing operations, according to OAO Sberbank’s chief executive officer, Herman Gref.

“One of the state’s key goals is improving access to housing for the population,” Gref, who’s also a former economy minister, said in response to e-mailed questions. “One of the measures aimed at achieving this goal could include mechanisms of favorable financing of mortgages that fit certain criteria.”

Gref, who’s led the country’s biggest lender since 2007, warned last week that the banking industry faced an “acute” liquidity shortage, with capital available for lending set to decrease in the coming months. Sberbank, whose share of the mortgage market exceeded 50 percent for the first time at the end of last year, had 1.57 trillion rubles ($46 billion) in home loans as of April 1.

Russia, whose $2 trillion economy is expanding at the slowest pace since a 2009 contraction, is struggling to revive growth and halt capital outflow amid a standoff with the U.S. and its allies over Ukraine. The central bank should also consider accepting other loans as collateral on favorable terms, including credit to small and medium-sized businesses and farmers, according to Gref.

“All these decisions should definitely be weighed from the point of view of their impact on inflation,” Gref said.

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