European Bank Stocks Slide as More Firms Cut Russia Ties

By Reuters
Reuters
Reuters
March 7, 2022 Updated: March 7, 2022

LONDON—European bank stocks tumbled again on Monday as more financial firms cut ties with Russia and others braced for further impact from the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lenders and investors with links to Russia have been cutting ties to the country as Western sanctions have been brought to bear, while others have sought to reassure their shareholders that the direct impact could be contained.

French asset manager Carmignac and British professional services firm EY became the latest on Monday to say they were severing links.

Carmignac said it would not buy Russian securities and would divest from existing assets, while EY said it was axing links with operations in Russia following similar moves by rivals KPMG and PwC.

The escalating crisis is also causing upheaval at the top of companies, with multiple board members at Russian firms including the British chairmen of gold and silver producer Polymetal and metals and hydropower group En+ quitting.

The London Stock Exchange separately said it had canceled some trades in Polymetal after shares surged by over 700 percent at one point on Monday.

Russian banks targeted by sanctions have been scrambling to adapt. VTB’s consumer digital bank in Europe has turned off its phone lines due to high call volumes, according to a notice on its website on Monday.

One of France’s major banks Credit Agricole became the latest to detail its exposure to Russia and Ukraine, saying this stood at around 6.4 billion euros ($6.95 billion) in total across on and off balance sheet exposures.

The lender said the exposures were of a “limited size and of good quality” and were being closely monitored, adding they would not impact distribution of its 2021 dividend.

Swiss banking giant UBS also detailed its direct exposure to Russia in its annual report, putting this at $634 million at the end of 2021. The bank said its direct exposure was limited and had been reduced since, though this could be affected by sanctions.

The eurozone banking share index dropped by as much as 9.5 percent to a 13-month low in early trading on Monday, before paring losses. It was down 2.8 percent by 1422 GMT.

Bank stocks have fallen sharply as the crisis worsened, with investors preparing for the economic cost of the conflict.

Lenders with operations in Russia–including Austria’s Raiffeisen, Italy’s UniCredit, and France’s Societe Generale–have been particularly affected, and all three saw double digit percentage falls early on Monday. The trio recovered some ground later and were all down around 3–4 percent in early afternoon European trading.

The United States and Europe are mulling a Russian oil import ban, which analysts say could further stoke energy prices and inflation and dampen recovery. Britain said on Monday it was also considering a similar ban.

($1 = 0.9204 euros)

By Carolyn Cohn, Huw Jones, and Iain Withers

Reuters