Russia's Sberbank prepares Baltic expansion

By bne IntelliNews April 13, 2012

Sergei Kuznetsov in Minsk -

Russian banking giant Sberbank is preparing to expand into the markets of the Baltic states, bne can reveal, with the first step being its Belarus subsidiary BPS-Sberbank opening a subsidiary in Latvia.

The move would follow Sberbank's first foreign foray when in February it acquired for €505m the Emerging European arm of Austria's Oesterreichische Volksbanken, Volksbank International, which operates in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

"We are discussing plans to open a subsidiary in Riga and will soon submit these plans to the supervisory board of BPS-Sberbank," BPS-Sberbank CEO Vasily Matyushevsky tells bne.

"BPS-Sberbank is following its customers to the Baltic market. Most Belarusian cargos are trans-shipped through Lithuanian and Latvian seaports. Therefore, we would like to accompany our Belarusian customers, give them all-round support and make their business more efficient," Matyushevsky explains, adding that the subsidiary in Riga is scheduled to open in 2012.

As for a possible expansion of Sberbank to Poland, the situation is less certain, Matyushevsky says. "You have to wait. I think there will have to be a decision of the Sberbank Group on this issue, and we will inform the media."

On April 12, deputy chairman of Sberbank's management board, Sergei Gorkov, told journalists in Zagreb that Russia's biggest bank is planning to expand its activities in Central and Eastern Europe where it sees big growth potential, and was "closely monitoring both the Polish and Turkish markets."

"The Central and Eastern European market is very important. In terms of the size and the rhythm of growth, it was showing excellent results before the crisis," Gorkov was quoted by AFP as saying.

In 2011, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported that Sberbank had considered the possibility of acquiring Poland's Millennium Bank and Kredyt Bank. In February, Banco Santander finally agreed a deal to take control of Kredyt Bank for PLN4.3bn (€1.04bn); Banco Comercial Portugues is reportedly considering selling its Polish unit Millennium as part of moves to raise its Tier 1 capital ahead of a June deadline from the European Banking Authority for banks to have capital ratios of at least 9%.

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