ROMANIA-RUSSIA Russia is preparing the sale of stakes in state owned companies such as Sberbank, VTB and Agricultural Bank

. (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
Ziarul BURSA #English Section / 4 aprilie 2012

Russian president Dmitri Medvedev has asked the government and the Russian Central Bank to draft by September proposals on how to reduce the stakes of the government in state owned banks to less than 50%. The Government owns less than 75.5% of VTB, the second largest bank in Russia, 100% of Russian Agricultural Bank, and the Bank of Russia owns 57.6% in the country's largest bank, Sberbank. The three banks are included in the privatization program.

In December, the Russian government approved the privatization plan for the 2011-2013 period, which includes the sale of the stakes in ten major state owned companies which could bring 59 billion dollars in additional revenue to the state budget.

The privatization program began in February, when the government sold its stake of 10% it had in VTB, the second largest bank in Russia, in exchange for 3.3 billion dollars. On April 16th, Sberbank intends to launch a roadshow for the sale of a stake of 7.6% of the stake which Bank of Russia owns in the former, worth 6 billion dollars.

Investors, including those who already own stakes in Sberbank, consider that the timing of the sale of the government's stake in the company is right, as the markets are confident after the massive liquidity injections of the ECB. Sberbank, controlled by the Russian state, has about half of the retail deposits in Russia and intends to expand its foreign presence. Sberbank recently acquired Volksbanken International AG, the Eastern Europe division of Austrian banking group ÖVAG, for 505 million Euros. Volksbank entered the Romanian market in 2000. The bank is currently one of the largest ten banks on its home market, with 4.7 billion Euros in assets and a network of 135 branches.

Starting with 2010, the bank's strategy has changed and Volksbank Romania is currently in the process of repositioning itself as a Universal bank. Starting with October 2011, control over Volksbank Romania has been transferred to an SPV (VBI Beteiligungs GmbH), as the Volksbank International division, without its Romanian division, was sold to Sberbank of Russia.

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