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European banks have most to lose in Russia

And it’s not just about loans AS THE WEST rolls out sanctions against Russia, some foreign banks, mostly European, will suffer collateral damage. Excluding the country from the SWIFT financial-messaging system will make it harder for them to collect payments on their loans. With the rouble so low, these are already less viable. The direct hit will be manageable: at $121bn, the stock of foreign bank loans to Russian firms and households has shrunk since 2014. But there are other costs. The investment-banking units of some big lenders may suffer losses on Russian securities, while private-banking businesses may be whacked by sanctions on Russian oligarchs. Retail-banking branches run by foreigners may also close. And if sanctions ratchet up, the risk of a government default will grow.

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