Foreign owned banks operating in Zimbabwe are resisting the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s directive that they should repatriate 75% of the money they hold offshore in their nostro accounts. According to the Reserve Bank figures, a total US$312 million is held offshore by banks.
A nostro account is an account held in a foreign country by a domestic bank, denominated in the currency of that country. The accounts are used to facilitate settlement of foreign exchange and trade transactions.
Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gold confirmed this week that the majority of foreign-owned banks in the country were resisting the exchange control directive, with others asking for permission to keep their nostro account balances above the stipulated 25%.
The central bank issued an order for the banks to repatriate nostro funds mid-last month in a bid to improve the liquidity situation in the country.
“In line with this directive, authorised dealers were advised that the maximum limit of funds to be in all nostro accounts (aggregated and equivalent is USD terms) shall be kept at 25% of the authorised dealer’s FCA as designated by Exchange Control. For purposes of calculating the 25% of the authorised FCAs as designated by Exchange Control,” said Gono.
For the purposes of calculating the 25% held in nostro accounts, balances in the corporate Foreign Currency Accounts (FCAs) exports, FCAs banks, corporate FCA (transitory), individual FCAs and nonresident transferable accounts (NRTA), would be used to arrive at the 25%.
Standard Chartered Bank Zimbabwe Ltd (StanChart) requested to keep its nostro balance above 25%, but the central bank did not grant the request.
StanChart had a nostro account balance of US$109,318 million as at 2 March 2012. Under the regulations, the bank was supposed to remit 75% (US$80,945 million) of the nostro account balance.
Barclays Bank Zimbabwe Ltd had a nostro account balance of US$37 million as at March 3. According to Gono, Barclays did not comply with the central bank directive. The bank was supposed to have remitted US$16 million.
Barclays applied for a dispensation to keep an excess balance of US$19,997 million but the request was not granted.
Stanbic Bank had a nostro account balance of US$67 million as at March 2.
But the bank was spared because it has committed to pay Zesa’s US$50 million debt. Apart from the Zesa debt, Stanbic has also pledged a US$20 million youth empowerment fund, which will be launched next week, and another US$10 million for a client who cannot be named for legal reasons, whose support to the economy the central bank commended.
MBCA Bank Ltd had a nostro account balance of US$53,457 million as at March 2.
The bank, according to RBZ, has requested for a dispensation to keep more than 25% of its nostro balance offshore until March 12. Its request was not granted.
FBC Bank had a nostro account balance of US$17,897 million as at March 2. Gono said the bank is considered to have complied because it transferred US$14 million on-shore to cater for cash imports.
Although ZB Bank provided the central bank with a breakdown of its nostro balances, the institution did not comply with the directive to transfer 75% of its nostro balances because its US$3,8 million is blocked under Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera). Gono said he understood the bank’s case.
Gono observed that banks with large balances in nostro accounts had applied for dispensations to keep funds offshore.
He said there was need to “urgently” resolve the issues.
Gono said: “In line with the need to ensure compliance with exchange control directive RN32 dated 21 February 2012, Exchange Control will enhance the verification and analysis of the weekly EC Form Nostro Return and reconcile it with the weekly submission of FCA balances so as to ensure that banks maintain nostro balances within the stipulated thresholds.”