Russia's Sberbank selling its Ukrainian subsidiary

By bne IntelliNews March 28, 2017

Russia’s largest bank Sberbank is selling its subsidiary in Ukraine to a consortium of investors that includes Latvia’s Norvik Bank and a private Belarusian company, Sberbank said in a statement on March 27.

The move follows the imposition by Ukraine of sanctions on Sberbank and four other state-owned Russian banks operating in the country, and recent blockages and vandalism of the bank’s property as relations deteriorated between Kyiv and Moscow.

Norvik Bank confirmed in a separate statement that it and its main shareholder Grigory Guselnikov had signed an agreement on joining the investment consortium. The majority owner of the consortium will be Said Gutseriev and his Belarusian company, Norvik Bank added. Said Gutseriyev is the son of Russian billionaire Mikhail Gutseriev, who co-owns the Russneft oil company.

“Sberbank PJSC (Ukraine) has all the necessary means to fulfill its liabilities to private and corporate clients. We hope that the decision to sell our subsidiary bank will help to unblock its offices and to renew its normal work,” Sberbank said.

The bank did not reveal the price of the deal, which is expected to close in the first half of 2017 after receiving approval by financial and antimonopoly regulators, including in Latvia and Ukraine, according to the statement.

Loss of investments due to the bank’s quick sale will be reflected in the financial results of Sberbank PJSC under Russian accounting standards (RAS), Sberbank said. However, “the effect of the deal on the consolidated IFRS results of Sberbank Group will not be material”, it added.

Sberbank CEO German Gref said a few days earlier that the bank was looking “very actively” at options for a quick withdrawal from Ukraine and that its loan-loss provisions in Ukraine made up around 70% of its potential losses.

Sberbank’s exit from Ukraine comes after Ukrainian sanctions against local operations of Russian state-owned lenders took effect on March 23. The measures were imposed by the government in Kyiv in response to the lender’s recognition of documents issued by rebel-controlled parts of East Ukraine.

The sanctions also apply to four other banks with a Russian state share, VS Bank, Prominvestbank, VTB Bank and BM Bank, which between them have 8.6% of the Ukrainian market.

The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) simultaneously asked the country’s law enforcers to ensure that Russian banks can leave the Ukrainian market “in a civilised way” as the sanctions took force and following a number of physical attacks on bank offices.

The deputy governor of the NBU, Kateryna Rozhkova, also highlighted the need to protect more than 1.7mn Ukrainian depositors who entrusted more than UAH21bn (€719mn) to the banking system and had been denied access to these funds because of attacks carried out by “aggressively-minded groups of people”.

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