Saudi Arabia Boosts Efficiency of Customs Clearances

Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority (ZATCA) officials at the event launching initiative for 2-hour Saudi customs clearances (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority (ZATCA) officials at the event launching initiative for 2-hour Saudi customs clearances (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Saudi Arabia Boosts Efficiency of Customs Clearances

Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority (ZATCA) officials at the event launching initiative for 2-hour Saudi customs clearances (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority (ZATCA) officials at the event launching initiative for 2-hour Saudi customs clearances (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Arabia has reduced its customs clearance period from 12 days to 2 hours in a move aimed at increasing the efficiency of customs processes in all the Kingdom’s land, sea and air ports.

The Kingdom, according to a new initiative by the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority (ZATCA) will target a two-hour customs clearance time at all land, sea and air ports.

The governor of ZATCA, Suhail Abanmi, said that the scheme comes “after the completion of a phase of continuous cooperation and coordination between the customs clearance system.”

“To reach this target is a key possibility for the Kingdom to become a global logistics platform,” added Abanmi.

Speaking at ZATCA’s celebration of World Customs Day, which was marked in Riyadh on Sunday, Abanmi stressed that the newly announced initiative aims to improve customs operations, performance and productivity indicators, strengthen the logistics sector and support the Kingdom’s position in the growth of the world economy.

Abanmi stressed the authority’s commitment to deepen cooperation with local and international bodies, both public and private, in a way that serves the initiative and contributes to enhancing the efficiency of customs services.

He said that the exchange of knowledge between the authority and its customs counterparts was “a top priority.”

“The authority, through its academy, continuously strives to consolidate the importance of building knowledge and skills and developing the potential of its employees through specialized programs in all areas of customs work,” said Abanmi.

“Human capital is the foundation of creativity, innovation and excellence. It is possible to achieve the authority’s strategy, which aims to build an effective working system,” he stressed.

Nashmi Al-Harbi, a logistics expert, said that a higher level of success can be achieved by saving time.

Harbi stressed that Saudi Arabia is proactive in seeking to facilitate and accelerate procedures to achieve the national strategy for transport and logistics services.



GACA Vice President: New Saudi Air Carrier to Be Launched Soon

Executive Vice President for Economic Policies and Logistics Services at GACA Awad Al-Sulami. (Photo: Turki Al-Agili)
Executive Vice President for Economic Policies and Logistics Services at GACA Awad Al-Sulami. (Photo: Turki Al-Agili)
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GACA Vice President: New Saudi Air Carrier to Be Launched Soon

Executive Vice President for Economic Policies and Logistics Services at GACA Awad Al-Sulami. (Photo: Turki Al-Agili)
Executive Vice President for Economic Policies and Logistics Services at GACA Awad Al-Sulami. (Photo: Turki Al-Agili)

Saudi Arabia is preparing to announce a new national air carrier in 2024 in line with the country’s goal to reach 250 global destinations by 2030.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum, Executive Vice President for Economic Policies and Logistics Services at the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) Awad Al-Sulami confirmed that the modern national carrier will be announced this year, noting that studies were underway to determine the needs of the sector for additional airlines.

Held under the patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, GACA is hosting the third edition of the Future Aviation Forum (FAF 2024) at the King Abdulaziz International Conference Center in Riyadh from May 20 - 22.

The event focuses on “Elevating Global Connectivity” and strives to boost aviation collaboration via global partnerships, fostering innovation, sustainable air travel, and cultural exchange.

Asked about the current increase in domestic ticket prices, Al-Sulami pointed to the implementation of economic regulations for competition and transparency in the market. This will mainly reflect on supply and demand, he underlined, adding that the introduction of new carriers will lead to competitive prices.

Executive Vice President for Aviation Safety and Environmental Sustainability at GACA Capt. Suleiman Al-Muhaimedi told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia has achieved record indicators in safety rates over the past 15 years.

The Kingdom is one of the signatories of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also known as Chicago Convention), which defines international rules and recommendations regarding sector standards, he added.

GACA Executive Vice President of Quality and Customer Experience Eng. Abdulaziz Al-Dahmash pointed to a major challenge in the aviation industry, which he said was growing at a rapid pace.

He stated that the target number of travelers during the year 2030 represents three times the current figures, explaining that the Authority has developed programs to measure the traveler’s experience and ensure its flexibility and smoothness.


Future Aviation Forum 2024 in Riyadh Highlights Global Investment Opportunities

The president of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) during their speech at the Future Aviation Forum 2024 in Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The president of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) during their speech at the Future Aviation Forum 2024 in Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Future Aviation Forum 2024 in Riyadh Highlights Global Investment Opportunities

The president of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) during their speech at the Future Aviation Forum 2024 in Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The president of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) during their speech at the Future Aviation Forum 2024 in Riyadh (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The third edition of the Future Aviation Forum 2024 has kicked off in Riyadh, welcoming more than 5,000 industry leaders from 120 nations. The event highlights investment opportunities worth over $100 billion in Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector.
Key announcements on the first day included Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) signing its biggest deal ever with Airbus. Saudi Arabia also announced its cooperation with Boeing and Airbus to use locally produced aluminum and titanium in their planes, aiming to boost local manufacturing.
Additionally, plans for a new national airline to be launched later this year were revealed.
Saleh Al-Jasser, Minister of Transport and Logistics Services and Chairman of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), launched the three-day conference in Riyadh. The event brought together over 30 ministers, 77 civil aviation leaders, airline CEOs, and 5,000 aviation experts from around the world.
Al-Jasser pointed out the significant changes in Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector since the pandemic, with remarkable growth. He stressed the need for collaboration to tackle challenges.
He highlighted key achievements, including Saudi Arabia’s rise to the 13th position globally in air connectivity and a record-breaking 112 million passengers in 2023, a 26% increase from 2022.
Al-Jasser also mentioned the sector’s adoption of new economic regulations for airports and air transportation services.
The minister also shared updates on legislative improvements and expansion plans during a press conference on the forum’s sidelines. These changes cover economic regulations, agency services, and airspace management, all coordinated with relevant authorities.
He mentioned that the updates aim to meet targets set by the National Aviation Sector Strategy, including reaching 300 million passengers and 250 destinations.
Al-Jasser also discussed plans to build and expand airports, including King Salman International Airport in Riyadh, which aims to accommodate 100 million passengers by 2030.
Additionally, he highlighted Saudi Arabia’s sustainability efforts, such as the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative, targeting a 2% reduction in carbon footprint annually.
GACA President Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Duailej stated that the first day of the forum witnessed great success, with numerous commercial deals, initiatives, and agreements aimed at enhancing global connectivity.
The agreements announced during the forum are a testament to the confidence in the growth and investment opportunities provided by the civil aviation sector in the Kingdom, reaffirming the Kingdom’s leading position in the global aviation sector.
Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) entered a deal with Airbus to purchase 105 aircraft of the A320-Neo and A321-Neo models to expand and modernize its fleet, enhancing global air connectivity with various countries.
During the forum, the GACA also launched the first edition of the Kingdom's aviation sector report, which highlighted the civil aviation sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s economy, amounting to $53 billion.
The GACA also issued a roadmap for general aviation, aiming to develop the business aviation and private aircraft sector in the Kingdom, with the goal of increasing its size tenfold by 2030.


Gold Slips from Record Levels as Dollar Holds Ground

A jeweller shows a gold bar at his shop in downtown Kuwait City on May 20, 2024. (Photo by YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP)
A jeweller shows a gold bar at his shop in downtown Kuwait City on May 20, 2024. (Photo by YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP)
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Gold Slips from Record Levels as Dollar Holds Ground

A jeweller shows a gold bar at his shop in downtown Kuwait City on May 20, 2024. (Photo by YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP)
A jeweller shows a gold bar at his shop in downtown Kuwait City on May 20, 2024. (Photo by YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP)

Gold prices eased on Tuesday as the US dollar firmed, the metal backing away from a record peak hit in the previous session as a fusion of bullish factors including growing US rate cut bets and geopolitical risks drove safe-haven demand.
Spot gold was down 0.6% at $2,410.73 per ounce, as of 0335 GMT after hitting a record high of $2440.49 on Monday.
US gold futures fell 1% at $2,414.00, Reuters reported.
The dollar rose 0.1% making greenback-priced bullion less attractive to buyers holding other currencies.
Lower interest rates and geopolitical uncertainty make bullion a favorable investment.
"The market expectations of interest rate cuts starting this year has gone up a bit with the cooling inflation numbers that came in last week and on the other side, geopolitical risks played a major role in pushing gold prices to a fresh record high," said ANZ commodity strategist Soni Kumari.
"China buying has been exceptional in the first quarter with their bar and coin demand being very strong, recording its highest since 2017 and these factors are offsetting the investment outflows in ETFs (exchange traded funds) and pushing prices higher."
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed when his helicopter crashed in poor weather in mountains near the Azerbaijan border on Sunday.
Minutes of the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting due on Wednesday along with comments from a slew of Fed speakers will be keenly awaited this week.
Spot silver fell 1.5% to $31.35 an ounce after hitting a more than 11-year high in the last session.
"Silver is the beta for gold, investors are attracted to silver because fundamentals are very strong coupled with growing industrial demand and it's a cheaper alternative to gold," Kumari said.
Platinum lost 1.1% to $1,035.15, after hitting its highest since May 12, 2023 on Monday. Palladium dropped 1.8% to $1,008.91.


Oil Prices Fall on Fear of High US Interest Rates Depressing Demand

The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, US, November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant
The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, US, November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant
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Oil Prices Fall on Fear of High US Interest Rates Depressing Demand

The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, US, November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant
The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, US, November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant

Oil prices fell in early Asian trade on Tuesday, with investors anticipating higher-for-longer US inflation and interest rates will depress consumer and industrial demand.

Brent crude futures declined 12 cents, or 0.1%, to $83.34 a barrel by 0041 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) eased 8 cents, or 0.1%, to $79.72 a barrel.

Both benchmarks fell less than 1% on Monday as US Federal Reserve officials said they were awaiting more signs of slowing inflation before considering interest rate cuts, Reuters reported.

"Fears of weaker demand led to selling as the prospect of Fed rate cut became more distant," said analyst Toshitaka Tazawa at Fujitomi Securities.

Fed Vice Chair Philip Jefferson said on Monday it was too early to tell if the inflation slowdown is "long lasting," while Vice Chair Michael Barr said restrictive policy needs more time. Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said it will "take a while" for the central bank to be confident that price growth slowdown is sustainable.

Lower interest rates reduce borrowing costs, freeing up funds which could boost economic growth and demand for oil.


Saudi Arabia’s National Carrier Orders More than 100 New Airbus Jets

Saudia said it is increasing flights and seat capacity across its existing 100-plus destinations to meet the country's goal of attracting more than 150 million tourists by 2030. (AFP file)
Saudia said it is increasing flights and seat capacity across its existing 100-plus destinations to meet the country's goal of attracting more than 150 million tourists by 2030. (AFP file)
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Saudi Arabia’s National Carrier Orders More than 100 New Airbus Jets

Saudia said it is increasing flights and seat capacity across its existing 100-plus destinations to meet the country's goal of attracting more than 150 million tourists by 2030. (AFP file)
Saudia said it is increasing flights and seat capacity across its existing 100-plus destinations to meet the country's goal of attracting more than 150 million tourists by 2030. (AFP file)

Saudi Arabia's national airline ordered more than 100 new Airbus jets, it said on Monday.

Saudia Group, which represents the Saudia airline and its budget carrier Flyadeal, said it ordered 105 aircraft from the French aerospace company's A320neo family of jets, including 12 A320neos and 93 A321neos. That brings Saudia Group's Airbus aircraft order backlog to 144 of the A320neo family planes.

Saudia said it is increasing flights and seat capacity across its existing 100-plus destinations to meet the country's goal of attracting more than 150 million tourists by 2030.

In February, Airbus reported healthy results for its commercial aircraft business in its latest annual earnings report and set a target of 800 commercial aircraft deliveries, 67 more than in 2023.

Airbus’s fortunes contrast with struggles at US rival Boeing, which seemed finally to be recovering from two crashes of Max jets in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. But on Jan. 5, a door plug blew out of an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9, and the company has been reeling ever since.

Airbus has benefitted from its decision to launch the A321neo, a single-aisle aircraft with 180 to 230 seats. “Neo” stands for new engine option, meaning highly fuel efficient engines that save airlines money on one of their biggest costs.

Boeing rushed to match it with the Max, a 737 equipped with new, more efficient engines, only to run into a myriad of technical issues.


Saudi Arabia Crude Exports Rise to 6.413 Mln bpd in March

FILE PHOTO: A gas flame is seen in the desert near the Khurais oilfield, about 160 km from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2008. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A gas flame is seen in the desert near the Khurais oilfield, about 160 km from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2008. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji/File Photo
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Saudi Arabia Crude Exports Rise to 6.413 Mln bpd in March

FILE PHOTO: A gas flame is seen in the desert near the Khurais oilfield, about 160 km from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2008. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A gas flame is seen in the desert near the Khurais oilfield, about 160 km from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2008. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji/File Photo

Saudi Arabia's crude oil exports in March rose to 6.413 million barrels per day (bpd) from 6.317 million bpd in February, official data showed on Monday.
Monthly export figures are provided by Riyadh and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI), which published them on its website, Reuters said.


ADNOC Buys Stake in NextDecade's Rio Grande LNG, Inks Supply Deal

FILE PHOTO: Logos of ADNOC are seen at Gastech, the world's biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba, Japan, April 4, 2017.    REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Logos of ADNOC are seen at Gastech, the world's biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba, Japan, April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo
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ADNOC Buys Stake in NextDecade's Rio Grande LNG, Inks Supply Deal

FILE PHOTO: Logos of ADNOC are seen at Gastech, the world's biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba, Japan, April 4, 2017.    REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Logos of ADNOC are seen at Gastech, the world's biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba, Japan, April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) on Monday said it has acquired an 11.7% stake in phase 1 of NextDecade's Rio Grande LNG export facility.

ADNOC and NextDecade have also entered into a 20-year supply agreement for 1.9 million tons per annum (mtpa) of LNG.


Aramco Signs Agreement with Pasqal to Deploy 1st Quantum Computer in Saudi Arabia

As per the agreement, Pasqal will install, maintain, and operate a 200-qubit quantum computer, which is scheduled for deployment in the second half of 2025. SPA
As per the agreement, Pasqal will install, maintain, and operate a 200-qubit quantum computer, which is scheduled for deployment in the second half of 2025. SPA
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Aramco Signs Agreement with Pasqal to Deploy 1st Quantum Computer in Saudi Arabia

As per the agreement, Pasqal will install, maintain, and operate a 200-qubit quantum computer, which is scheduled for deployment in the second half of 2025. SPA
As per the agreement, Pasqal will install, maintain, and operate a 200-qubit quantum computer, which is scheduled for deployment in the second half of 2025. SPA

Saudi Aramco announced on Monday that it has signed an agreement with Pasqal, a global leader in neutral atom quantum computing, to install the first quantum computer in the Kingdom.
As per the agreement, Pasqal will install, maintain, and operate a 200-qubit quantum computer, which is scheduled for deployment in the second half of 2025.
According to the statement, the quantum computer will initially use the "analog mode" approach. Within the following year, the system will be upgraded to the more advanced hybrid "analog-digital mode", which is more powerful and able to solve even more complex problems.

"Aramco is delighted to partner with Pasqal to bring cutting-edge, high-performance quantum computing capabilities to the Kingdom. In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, we believe it is crucial to seize opportunities presented by new, impactful technologies and we aim to pioneer the use of quantum computing in the energy sector,” said Aramco Executive Vice President of Technology and Innovation Ahmad Al-Khowaiter.

Pasqal CEO and Co-founder Georges-Olivier Reymond said that the era of quantum computing is no longer "confined to theory, it is transitioning to real-world applications, empowering organizations to solve previously intractable problems at scale.”

Through this agreement, he added, the commercial adoption of this transformative technology in Saudi Arabia will be accelerated.

According to the statement, Pasqal and Aramco intend to leverage the quantum computer to identify new use cases, and have the ambitious vision of establishing a powerhouse for quantum research in the Kingdom. This would involve leading academic institutions with the aim of fostering breakthroughs in quantum algorithm development — a crucial step for unlocking the true potential of quantum computing.

The agreement also increases Pasqal's activity in Saudi Arabia; it established an office in the Kingdom in 2023, and in 2022, Aramco and Pasqal signed an MoU to collaborate on quantum computing capabilities and applications in the energy sector. In 2023, Aramco's Wa'ed Ventures also participated in Pasqal's Series B fundraising round, said the statement.


Saudi E-commerce Set to Reach $44 Bln by 2030

The BIBAN e-commerce gathering in Saudi Arabia (SPA)
The BIBAN e-commerce gathering in Saudi Arabia (SPA)
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Saudi E-commerce Set to Reach $44 Bln by 2030

The BIBAN e-commerce gathering in Saudi Arabia (SPA)
The BIBAN e-commerce gathering in Saudi Arabia (SPA)

Saudi Arabia is working to improve its investment climate for e-commerce, aiming to attract more local and international companies to tap into this rapidly growing market, projected to reach $44 billion by 2030.

Enhancing the e-commerce sector is a key goal of the National Transformation Program, supporting Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030.”

This move is vital for boosting the national economy, as the Kingdom ranks among the top 10 fastest-growing countries in e-commerce.

The program plays a crucial role in empowering the private sector and improving government efficiency to drive the country's transformation and meet the vision's targets.

Experts emphasize the importance of e-commerce for large companies, both locally and globally, as they increasingly turn to online platforms to expand their businesses.

Saudi Arabia is creating a competitive environment for both local and foreign companies by adopting new technologies, which is energizing the Saudi market.

Dr. Mohammed bin Duleim Al-Qahtani, an economic analyst and academic at King Faisal University, predicts a 13.5% annual growth in Saudi Arabia's e-commerce sector, surpassing the global average of 11.2%.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, he expected the sector, currently valued at $21 billion, to exceed $30 billion by 2027 and reach around $44 billion by 2030.

Al-Qahtani highlighted Saudi Arabia’s focus on digital infrastructure and e-commerce, leveraging its strategic location.

He stressed the importance of expanding e-commerce and digital banking, suggesting internationalizing branches of major local banks.

Al-Qahtani also emphasized global efforts, led by G20 nations like Saudi Arabia, to address e-commerce challenges and ensure cyber and financial security.


ECB Pressures Banks to Speed Up Russia Exits

The logo of Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is seen on their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 14, 2023. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
The logo of Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is seen on their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 14, 2023. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
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ECB Pressures Banks to Speed Up Russia Exits

The logo of Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is seen on their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 14, 2023. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
The logo of Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is seen on their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 14, 2023. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

The European Central Bank has told all Eurozone lenders with operations in Russia to speed up their withdrawal plans because of fears they could be hit by US punitive measures.

The ECB has written to lenders in recent weeks asking for detailed plans on their exit strategies, according to several people with knowledge of the communication, the Financial Times wrote.

Lenders need to provide the regulator with an “action plan” for their Russian business as early as June, some of the people said.

Last week, Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International was forced to abandon a deal to swap assets in Russia for ones in Europe after pressure from US authorities.

The US intervention has led to concern at the ECB that RBI and other lenders could be targeted in future crackdowns.

“This could lead to serious damage to the banking system if the US authorities take sanctions,” said a person briefed on the ECB’s position.

The letters underline the increasing pressure from Washington over European groups that might support Russia’s war in Ukraine more than two years after the invasion.

“The ECB’s response to the US interventions shows the big dependency of Europe on the US,” said an adviser to the banks with Russian subsidiaries.

“We are more followers than leaders on judgments involving European companies.”

The US Treasury did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The person briefed on the ECB’s position said supervisors there wanted to avoid European banks facing a similar fate as ABLV, a Latvian bank that was shut down after the US Treasury department accused it of “institutionalized money laundering” as well as breaches of North Korean sanctions and cut off its access to the US financial system in 2018.

The central bank has been calling on Eurozone banks to look for an exit from Russia since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

At one extreme, RBI, which has the biggest exposure to Russia among the European lenders, has been told to reduce its lending in the country by two-thirds from its current level by 2026.

The bank, which faces potential fines by the ECB if it fails to comply, has already shrunk its Russian loan book by 56% since the war began.

Meanwhile, other banks including Italy’s UniCredit — the lender with the second-biggest exposure — have been asked to provide the ECB with a detailed breakdown of their plans for their operations. UniCredit has been given a deadline of June 1 to respond.

Last Thursday, a Russian court ordered that UniCredit's assets, accounts and property, as well as shares in two subsidiaries, be seized as part of a lawsuit over an aborted gas project involving the Italian bank, court documents showed.
UniCredit and OTP — the Hungarian bank that is not under direct supervision of the ECB — have in the past year started to repatriate profits from their Russian subsidiaries in the form of quarterly dividend payments.