Review of monetary sector in Azerbaijan (Summary of 2017)

Analysis Materials 16 February 2018 17:33 (UTC +04:00)

If the year of 2016 was a real test for Azerbaijani banks, then 2017 became a year of reforms for them, adaptation to new economic realities and preparations for further growth.

In general, the past few years have been rich with bank-related events. The past year was not an exception - the institution of banking ombudsman, the Financial Literacy Council and the Azerbaijan Credit Bureau LLC were established. Licenses of some banks were also revoked in 2017.

In general, after the difficult period of 2015-2016, the banking sector began to recover gradually, and it was observed more clearly in late 2017. Firstly, the sector has restored its profitability - in early November 2017 [the figures for the whole 2017 are not yet available], net profit of banks amounted to 549.6 million manats as compared to the loss of 1.7 billion manats in 2016. The aggregate capitalization of banks has grown from 1.9 billion to 3.1 billion manats. The number of bank employees has also increased.

"Baku approach"

One of the banking sector's main problems is the continuing growth in overdue loans. Certain measures taken by banks didn't provide the expected results. It was clear that a more comprehensive approach is needed. As expected, the "Baku approach" will become the needed approach. Created by analogy with the Istanbul and London approaches, it is meant to unite the banks in the fight against the growth of credit delinquencies. The general principles of these approaches are that banks restructure problem loans and facilitate loan terms for debtors who are in a particularly difficult situation.

The growth of problem loans, both for individuals and legal entities, has been observed in Azerbaijan since February 2015, when the first devaluation of the national currency occurred. As of late October 2017, overdue loans accounted for 15.55 percent of all loans issued in the country. This is almost 1.9 billion manats (an increase of 37.4 percent during the year) out of 12.15 billion manats [data of the Central Bank].

The development of the "Baku approach" continues. However, the fact that the government creates comprehensive measures to fight against the growth of problem loans, and gives a chance to improve the condition of banks and their customers in 2018-2019.

Establishment of Institution of Banking Ombudsman

The Institution of Banking Ombudsman was established in Azerbaijan in September 2017. Banking Ombudsman Ikram Karimov reviewed more than 160 cases in this period, some of which were solved in favor of bank customers. The establishment of the Institution of Banking Ombudsman is one of the landmark moments of 2017. Of course, it will be possible to speak about the effectiveness of this institute only according to the results of, at least, the first half of 2018. However, a certain positive effect is already being observed.

Currently, the ombudsman considers appeals on disputes that amount to about $2,000. Meanwhile, there are more than 100,000 citizens, who have disagreements with banks that amount to about $2,000.

Earlier, Secretary of the ombudsman Elchin Hasanov said that, the limit for the consideration of cases may be increased in the future, but it is not yet known to what extent. At the same time, it is expected that on the basis of the institution of banking ombudsman, the institution of financial ombudsman will appear in the country, which will help to solve not only disputes between banks and their customers, but also will consider a wider range of issues related to business.

Growth of non-cash payments

The Ministry of Taxes, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FIMSA) and the banks themselves implemented various measures to stimulate non-cash payments in 2017.

Entrepreneurs' cash operations have been restricted since 2017. Thus, the operations of entrepreneurs involved in the areas of trade and public catering have been limited to 30,000 manats per month, which had a monthly turnover of more than 200,000 manats within 12 months. This limit is 15,000 manats per month for other taxpayers.

Meanwhile, crediting, payment of administrative fines, financial sanctions, taxes, customs duties, insurance payments, issuance of loans and payment of debts for leasing operations, pensions and others has been transferred to non-cash form since 2017.

Moreover, for the cashing of funds, entrepreneurs must pay tax from the source in a simplified procedure at a rate of one percent of the amount they cashed.

All these measures led to an increase in funds in bank accounts of, primarily, entrepreneurs, and banks received additional funds for the issuance of loans.

Consolidation of banks

Negotiations about the need to consolidate the banks that have continued for many years, finally produced some results in 2017.

Although the number of merged banks could be more, taking into account the active negotiations that took place last year, but in practice, it did not go further than talking.

Nevertheless, there was only one merger last year - the merger of AtaBank and Caspian Development Bank was completed in 1H17.

As a result, Caspian Development Bank was liquidated and its assets were transferred to AtaBank. This enabled AtaBank to significantly increase its financial indicators.

One of the participants of the sector, which could also merge with another bank, was DemirBank. These plans were not implemented, because FIMSA revoked the license of the bank in December 2017. As a result, after one consolidation and revocation of one license, there are 30 participants in the banking sector of Azerbaijan.

First transformation in the history of Azerbaijan's banking sector

Non-bank credit organization PARA appeared in Azerbaijan in March 2017. In fact, this is an important event of the past year, since this is the first bank in the history of the Azerbaijani banking sector that turned into a non-bank credit organization.

Parabank's license was revoked in 2016. However, unlike other banks, it decided to continue its activities. Instead, the bank appealed to the regulator for a license to operate as a non-bank credit organization. This is the first such case in Azerbaijan, but perhaps not the last.

New stage of recovery of the International Bank of Azerbaijan

The International Bank of Azerbaijan is in the process of recovery since 2015. The country's biggest bank successfully completed the restructuring of foreign liabilities worth $3 billion in 2017.

The previous year became a preparatory one for the bank before being put up for privatization. It is expected that this year the IBA, the majority of shares of which is owned by the government represented by the Ministry of Finance, will be sold.

Who will become the buyer of the bank is, of course, unknown, but the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has already shown interest in it. EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti said that the financial organization is ready to take part in the privatization only in case of reforming the corporate governance system. The EBRD is not a new player in the Azerbaijani banking sector, and it is a shareholder of several banks in the country. It also owned a part of shares of DemirBank, which was closed in late 2017.

Currency reserves of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA) increased by $1.36 billion (34.2 percent) during 2017, according to statistical data posted on the CBA website.

During the month, CBA reserves rose by $80.4 million (1.53 percent).

Currency reserves of CBA decreased by more than $1 billion or 20.78 percent in 2016 as compared to 2015.

CBA's currency reserves started to decrease in July 2014. The reduction was at a slower pace (within a range of $20 million to $50 million) at the beginning, but a sharp decline began in December 2014 due to an increase in demand for US dollars in the country.

During 2016, the CBA currency reserves increased by 0.9 percent in March, 1.35 percent in April, 3.97 percent in May, 0.7 percent in August, and 0.14 percent in November.

Currency market and manat rate

A fully floating exchange rate regime has been observed in Azerbaijan since early 2017. During this time the CBA did not resort to serious interventions to maintain the manat rate. First, there was a period of destabilization, which was connected with the expectations of the market participants. This led to a significant decrease in the cost of manat.

However, then the market itself settled the rate and it stabilized. Today, the foreign exchange market is a market of supply, rather than demand. The pressure is made to appreciate the manat rate. Taking into account Azerbaijan's strategic goals, appreciation of the manat in the medium term may create problems for the balance of payments, given the current measures to reduce imports and support exports.

AZN/USD rate increased by 3.9871 percent in 2017.

AZN/USD rate remained stable in December 2017, but increased by 0.0059 percent in November 2017.

AZN/USD average rate was 1.7001 manat in December 2017 compared to 1.7002 manat in November 2017.

In general, in 2017, AZN/USD rate for the first time has increased over the past three years. The AZN/USD rate decreased in 2015-2016.

AZN/EUR rate decreased by 8.9197 percent in 2017.

AZN/EUR rate decreased by 0.6942 percent in December 2017 (in November, AZN/EUR rate decreased by 2.02 percent). In general, AZN/EUR rate has become cheaper for the third consecutive year.

Azerbaijani monetary market

The money supply rate (M2) (cash in circulation outside banks) and remainders in the national currency on accounts of non-financial organizations, financial organizations (excluding credit organizations and individuals) amounted to 12.47 billion manats as of late December 2017 increasing by 3.6 percent within the month and by 8 percent within the year, the Azerbaijani Central Bank said in a report.

The amount of cash money supply (M0) increased by 17.4 percent for the year from 6.38 billion manats to 7.49 billion manats.

As of late December 2017, Broad Money Supply (M3) totaled 22.77 billion manats or by 9 percent more compared to late December 2016 and by 5.8 percent more than in late November 2017.

The transaction money (M1) increased by 17.6 percent during the year and by 4.3 percent as compared to late November 2017 and amounted to 10.54 billion manats.

Parameters of monetary market, in million manats:

Monetary market parameters

Volume, December 2017

Money mass in extensive understating (М3)


Money mass on manat (М2)


Cash in manat (М0)


Non-cash in manat


As of Jan. 1, 2018, bank reserves in Azerbaijan amounted to 1.7 billion manats - that is by 24.9 percent less than in late December 2016.

In early 2017, the figure stood at 2.26 billion manats.

According to a report of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan, as of late December 2017, expanded monetary base amounted to 9.87 billion manats (an increase of 6.9 percent as compared to the same period of 2016) in the country.

This indicator stood at 9.23 billion manats in late December 2016.

The report says that as of January 1, 2018, the monetary base totaled 8.54 billion manats as compared to 7.86 billion manats in early January 2017.

During the period, the amount of cash in circulation was 8.14 billion manats, while this figure stood at 6.96 billion manats as of January 1, 2017.

The ratio of cash in circulation to monetary base as of January 1, 2018 stood at 82.5 percent, increasing by 7.1 percentage points as compared to late December 2016.

Azerbaijan's loan market

Credit organizations of Azerbaijan decreased the volume of issued loans by 28.5 percent to 11,757.8 million manats in 2017 as compared to 2016, says a report of the country's Central Bank.

According to the report, the volume of lending decreased by 3.8 percent in the country over a month.

The volume of overdue loans increased by 10.5 percent during the year, and decreased by 14 percent during a month. The share of overdue loans in the loan portfolio of banks and non-bank credit organizations stood at 13.8 percent.

Crediting in national currency amounted to 6,953.6 million manats (a decrease by 19.7 percent for the year) in 2017. Despite a significant reduction in manat loans, they still account for the biggest share of the loan market - 59.14 percent. According to the report, 11.35 percent of manat loans were overdue loans in 2017.

The share of overdue foreign currency loans stood at 17.4 percent.

The volume of short-term loans amounted to 2.1 billion manats, and long-term loans totaled 9.66 billion manats.

Average interest rates on bank loans decreased in foreign currency in Azerbaijan in December 2017 compared to November 2017.

The rates on manat loans increased for legal entities but decreased for individuals. Meanwhile, the rates on foreign currency loans increased for both individuals and legal entities.

Comparative table of interest rates on loans in national and foreign currencies:

Average interest rates

Rates on loans for legal entities

Rates on loans for individuals

November 2016

Manat loans




Foreign currency loans




October 2017

Manat loans




Foreign currency loans




November 2017

Manat loans




Foreign currency loans




December 2017

Manat loans




Foreign currency loans




The customer base of Azerbaijani banks decreased by 1.7 percent as of late 2017 compared to November but grew 7.8 percent compared to late 2016 and amounted to over 5.77 million, the Azerbaijani Central Bank's report as of 2017 said.

According to the CBA report, most of the clients (98.6 percent) accounted for individuals, 231,500 of them were entrepreneurs. The rest of the clients (86,830 people) were legal entities.

During the reporting period, the number of client accounts in the country's commercial banks slightly decreased compared to the previous month and amounted to more than 16.12 million. For the year, the number of client accounts increased by 6.3 percent. At the same time, over 82.5 percent of client accounts (13.3 million accounts) accounted for current accounts.

Thus, 98.7 percent (13.13 million accounts) in the structure of current accounts accounted for the current accounts of individuals, 244,420 of them are owned by entrepreneurs. The rest of current accounts belong to legal entities.

The number of client credit accounts, as of late 2017, decreased during the month by 2 percent and amounted to 2.44 million. For the year, their number increased by 7.8 percent.

The number of debit accounts in the reporting period amounted to 345,790, which is by 3.3 percent less than as of late November and 8.7 percent compared to late 2016.

Loans worth 1.98 billion manats were issued to the population in Azerbaijani districts in 2017, that is, 16.9 percent of the total loan portfolio of banks, which is by 19.2 percent less than in 2016, according to the report of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA).

According to the CBA, in early 2018 the loans worth 9.77 billion manats were issued in Baku, which is by 4.9 times more than in the districts. Almost 5.4 billion manats (55.2 percent of total lending volume in Baku) accounted for the loans in national currency.

The average annual interest rate on loans in the country in 2017 was 11.8 percent, while 10.3 percent in Baku.

In 2017, loans with the lowest interest rates were issued in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic - 8.6 percent, with the highest - the Aran economic region (an average of 22.7 percent).


Lending volume (thousand manats)

Average interest rate

In total

Including manats









Mountain Shirvan
































The average interest rate on deposits in Azerbaijani banks increased in national currency and decreased in foreign currency in December 2017, the Azerbaijani Central Bank's report said.

According to the report, the average rate on bank deposits in manats made up 10.72 percent in December 2017 compared to 10.3 percent in November 2017 and 6.5 percent in December 2016.

The average rate on deposits in foreign currency amounted to 3 percent in December 2017 compared to 3.05 percent in November 2017 and 4.66 percent in December 2016, the report said.

According to the report, the banks drew deposits of legal entities in manats in the amount of 5.82 percent per annum in December 2017 compared to 5.17 percent and 3.91 percent in November 2017 and December 2016 accordingly.

The funds on the accounts denominated in the foreign currency brought 1.41 percent to legal entities in December 2017, 1.39 percent in November 2017 and 3.34 percent in December 2016, the report said.

As of Jan. 1, 2018, the average interest rate on deposits of physical entities in manats made up 11.59 percent compared to 11.74 percent as of late November 2017 and 10.31 percent in December 2016, the report said.

According to the report, the interest rates on deposits of physical entities in foreign currency are as follows: 3.66 percent in December 2017, 3.76 percent in November 2017 and 5.44 percent in December 2016.

Mortgage lending

In December 2017, Azerbaijan Mortgage and Credit Guarantee Fund CJSC issued loans worth 30.5 million manats, according to the report of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA).

The issuance of mortgage loans was suspended in the same period last year due to the restructuring of the fund.

According to the CBA report, in December 2017, the volume of refinancing of loans issued by banks earlier amounted to 19.6 million manats. Since the beginning of the year, 50 million manats has been transferred from the state budget to the fund.

The average monthly amount of the loan delivered by the fund's authorized banks was 45,043.3 manats in December 2017 (41,118.4 manats in December 2016). The average period of the loan is 281 months (280 months a year earlier). The average annual interest rate is 6.63 percent (6.69 percent a year earlier). The average monthly amount for payments is 321.7 manats (296.5 manats a year earlier).

In general, the fund's authorized lending institutions have issued 21,548 mortgage loans worth 964.55 million manats since 2006 and up till now.

According to the new mortgage loan issuance order, approved in June 2016, an ordinary mortgage loan will be issued only to Azerbaijani citizens and only in the national currency for a term from 3 years to 25 years, while preferential mortgage - up to 30 years to purchase a house, owned by the citizen. Interest rates on conventional mortgage must not exceed eight percent, while 4 percent per annum in preferential mortgage loan.

The maximum amount of the mortgage loan (including preferential) is determined by the Azerbaijan Mortgage and Credit Guarantee Fund CJSC and must not exceed the cost of repaired housing with an average of 100 square meters in zone #7 in Baku. Annual interest rates on the loan are determined by the company's Supervisory Board.

The amount of preferential mortgage loan must not exceed 85 percent of the cost of purchased housing by the date of the loan issuance, except for cases when a borrower appeals to decrease the loan amount. The amount of conventional mortgage loan must not be less than 75 percent and more than 85 percent of the cost of purchased housing by the moment of the loan issuance, except for the cases when a borrower appeals to decrease the loan amount.

The monthly payment for a mortgage loan must not exceed 70 percent of a debtor's monthly income. The age of the borrower must not exceed the retirement age according to the legislation. An agreement on life insurance is required.

The family members of war victims, national heroes, internally displaced people, civil servants with at least a three years' experience, teachers of secondary schools with at least a five-year service term, PhDs, doctors of science and those having special merits in sport as well as the military with at least a three-year service term can use the preferential conditions. Each family having the right to such a mortgage loan can use it only once.

Twenty-four out of 30 banks in the country, as well as 16 insurance companies [in total 21] and 11 appraisal organizations are the authorized banks of the Azerbaijan Mortgage and Credit Guarantee Fund CJSC.

Azerbaijan's banking sector

The total volume of deposits of legal entities and individuals in Azerbaijani banks amounted to 20.6 billion manats in 2017, according to the report of Azerbaijan's Central Bank.

The deposit base of banks increased by 4.9 percent in December 2017 and decreased by 6.7 percent for the year.

The volume of deposits in the Azerbaijani national currency, the manat, reached 5.69 billion manats in 2017, 3.29 billion manats of which accounted for demand deposits, and 2.4 billion manats - term deposits, the report said.

The volume of deposits in the freely convertible currency reached 14.91 billion manats in 2017, 7.02 billion manats of which accounted for demand deposits, and 7.9 billion manats - term deposits, the report said.

Thus, as of January 1, 2018, 27.6 percent accounted for the deposits in manats, and 72.4 percent of the total deposit base of banks accounted for the deposits in foreign currency.

According to the report, the individuals' deposits reached 7.37 billion manats in 2017 (1.1-percent growth for the year). Most of the individuals' deposits accounted for the ones in the foreign currency - 69.1 percent or 5.09 billion manats, the report said.

According to the report, the population's deposits increased by 1.2 percent in December 2017.

The total volume of the legal entities' deposits in Azerbaijani banks reached 13.23 billion manats in 2017 or by 9.6 percent (14.64 billion manats) less than in 2016, the report said.

As of January 1, 2018, the volume of the Azerbaijani financial organizations' deposits reached 1.94 billion manats compared to 5.53 billion manats in 2017.

A sharp decrease in the deposits of financial organizations is connected with the restructuring of the International Bank of Azerbaijan.

The volume of the Azerbaijani non-financial organizations' deposits reached 11.1 billion manats in 2017 compared to 9.11 billion manats in 2016.

As of Jan. 1, 2018, the population's bank deposits in Azerbaijani districts (except for Baku) totaled 563.51 million manats, which is 7.5 percent of all bank deposits, according to the report of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA).

For comparison, as of late December 2016, the population's bank deposits in Azerbaijani districts (except for Baku) totaled 498.58 million manats, which is 6.7 percent of all bank deposits.

The volume of deposits in the districts in December 2017 increased amid their increase in the country.

In the end of December 2017, the population kept deposits worth 7.45 billion manats in the banks.

As of Jan.1, 2018, this figure increased up to 7.56 billion manats.

As of early January 2018, the volume of population's bank deposits in Baku amounted to almost 7 billion manats.

The average annual deposit rate throughout the country reached 4.3 percent, and on Baku - 4.2 percent in December 2017.

Distribution of bank deposits in Azerbaijani districts:


Amount of deposits (thousand manats)

Average interest rate (%)







Mountain Shirvan
























Financial activity of banks

Azerbaijan's banking sector completed 2017 with net profit of 883.6 million manats, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FIMSA) said in a report.

The 2017 was more successful for the banking sector in terms of profitability and 2016 was unprofitable for banks - the cumulative losses of the sector amounted to almost 1.7 billion manats, FIMSA said.

Last year, the revenues of banks totaled 2.7 billion manats, expenditures - 1.8 billion manats, said the report.

The interest income of banks for issued loans exceeded 1.28 billion manats (1.7 billion manats in 2016), interest expenses on deposits - 373.4 million manats (461.8 million manats).

Operating profit of banks amounted to 908.2 million manats in the period. Banks also paid 55.2 million manats as a profit tax.

Azerbaijani banks increased the number of offices, but reduced the number of branches in 2017. The number of offices increased from 131 to 142 [compared to 2016]. The number of branches for the same period decreased from 569 to 509.

One of the sources in banking circles told Trend that an increase in the number of offices and a decrease in the number of branches are connected with the desire of banks to cut their expenses.

Previously, banks preferred to open branches, as the range of services they render there is more than in offices. However, more funds are required to support the branches. Fewer employees usually work in offices and their salary is lower than those who work in branches. As a result, banks gradually began to reduce the number of branches in those districts where there is no need for them, replacing them with branches.

The banks completed 2016 with losses worth almost 1.7 billion manat. Last year, the sector was able to restore its profitability, but presently, banks are paying more attention to cost optimization.

Amid a decrease in the number of branches, the number of employees working in the banking sector is also decreasing. In 2016, 16,947 people worked in that sector while in 2017, 16,171 people worked there.

Despite the fact that from the second half of 2017, the staff of the sector is gradually recovering [in June, their number was 16,095 people, while in November 16,629 people], in December their number decreased sharply from 16,629 people to 16,171 people.

According to the Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FIMSA), during the reporting period, the number of ATMs also decreased from 2,461 to 2,431.

There are 30 banks in Azerbaijan, including two state owned banks.

Payment card market

The turnover of payment card transactions carried out via ATMs and POS-terminals amounted to 1.55 billion manats in Azerbaijan in December 2017, which is by 19.2 percent more than in December 2016, said the report of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA).

According to the report, the total number of payment card transactions reached 9.45 million in December 2017 (17.1 percent-growth compared to December 2016).

The number of debit card transactions reached 8.54 million totaling 1.4 billion manats during the reporting period. Meanwhile, 5.81 million debit card transactions worth 1.16 billion manats were carried out via ATMs, and 703,000 transactions worth 129 million manats via POS-terminals.

The number of payment cards rose by 8.8 percent to 5.8 million in December 2017 as compared to the same period of 2016.

As of January 1, 2018, 2,431 ATMs operated in the country, 1,308 of which are located in Baku and 1,123 - in other cities and districts of the country. The total number of ATMs has decreased by 23 or 0.9 percent for the year.

As of late 2017, the number of POS-terminals amounted to 65,471 in the country, 37,068 of which are installed in Baku and 28,403 in other cities and districts of the country. The number of POS-terminals has decreased by 6,335 or 8.8 percent in Azerbaijan for the year.

Stock market

Azerbaijan's National Depository Center has registered 2,424 stock exchange transactions for the purchase and sale of securities worth 777.8 million manats in 2017 that is by three times more than in 2016, says the statistical data posted on the Center's website.

According to the data, 421 off-exchange transactions worth almost 776.9 million manats were registered in 2017 (3.2 times more for the year).

Meanwhile, 1,142 transactions worth 8.3 billion manats were registered on additional emission during the reporting period. The volume of such transactions has increased by 67.8 percent in 2017 as compared to 2016.

Volume of transactions in 2017:

Concluded agreements

Exchange transactions, number

Exchange transactions, in manats

Off-exchange transactions, number

Off-exchange transactions, in manats

Transactions on additional emission, number

Transactions on additional emission, volume