It covers payment methods and information on, banking systems, foreign exchange controls, and U.S. and correspondent banking.
Methods of Payment
The most common methods of payment in Uzbekistan are telegraphic transfer and letters of credit. Customers can open Visa, Mastercard and China Union Pay cards at local banks for international payments and travel, and use local cards UzCard and Humo for payments in the national currency. Cooperation of UzCard and Humo with Visa, Mastercard and China Union Pay led to their convergence through the issue of co-badged cards (UzCard-Mastercard, UzCard-Union Pay, Humo-Visa, Humo-Mastercard, Humo-Union Pay) which can be used for both local and international payments. In April 2021, Uzcard and Humo signed a memorandum of cooperation to integrate their infrastructures so that their terminals will start to accept both types of cards.
Ahbor-reyting is a local credit rating agency, but all companies which want to be taken seriously seek credit ratings from Moody’s, Fitch Group, and S&P Global Ratings.
For more information about the methods of payment or other trade finance options, please read the Trade Finance Guide available at https://www.trade.gov/trade-finance-guide-quick-reference-us-exporters.
There are 32 commercial banks in Uzbekistan, including 13 banks with state participation, 5 private banks, 13 banks in the form of a joint-stock company, and 1 subsidiary bank. The total number of branches of banks throughout the country is 1,021. The banking system in Uzbekistan remains closely controlled by the state through a complex set of regulatory actions, decrees, proclamations, and practices. Most banking assets remain in state-owned or controlled banks, and most loans are directed or channeled by the government to develop certain pre-selected industry sectors. The current state of the banking system limits the role banks can play as financial intermediaries, thus inhibiting the ability of citizens or private companies to obtain credit and other banking services. A large-scale reform program for the banking industry was announced in May 2020 with a target of privatizing 60% of the banking industry by 2025. One large state-owned bank will be privatized in 2021 and another three in 2022.
Foreign Exchange Controls
Uzbekistan adopted Article VIII of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement in October 2003 and, thus, committed to currency convertibility for current account transactions. However, full implementation of the country’s obligations under this article only began in September 2017, when the GOU eliminated the difference between the artificially low official rate and the black-market exchange rate, and formally allowed unlimited non-cash forex transactions for businesses.
Formally, foreign investors are guaranteed transfer of funds in foreign currency into and out of Uzbekistan without limitation, provided they have paid all taxes and other financial obligations in accordance with legislation. Local authorities may stop the repatriation of a foreign investor’s funds in cases of insolvency and bankruptcy, criminal acts by the foreign investor, or when directed by arbitration or a court decision.
The Central Bank’s foreign exchange policy is now market based, though the Central Bank will still smooth out sharp exchange rate fluctuations that arise from short-term mismatches between supply and demand. Further development plans for the foreign exchange market include gradually allowing exchange rate fluctuations in a wider band, and introducing currency swaps, options, futures, and other financial instruments. The Central Bank has recently declared its intention to increase exchange rate flexibility to help adjust to internal and external shocks.
U.S. Banks and Local Correspondent Banks
The National Bank of Uzbekistan (NBU) and Asaka Bank are the main financial gateways between Uzbekistan and the rest of the world; they are the primary channels for the inflow, distribution and servicing of foreign financing and investments. These banks have correspondent relations with Citibank, Bank of America, American Express Bank, JP Morgan Chase, and other U.S. banks. The U.S. Exim Bank has opened a credit line at NBU. Uzbekneftegaz, the state-owned oil and gas company, reported in June 2021 that the U.S. Exim Bank sent a letter of intent to provide a $184 million loan for Bukhara oil refinery reconstruction. Only JP Morgan Chase bank has so far established a representative office in Uzbekistan.