Russia presses ahead with sale of Sberbank stake

Russia is taking advantage of the recent bounce in stock markets by pressing ahead with the sell-off of a stake – valued at around $5bn (£3.1bn) – in Sberbank, the largest bank in the country.

The shares are to be listed in London and Moscow and will leave Russia’s central bank with a 50% stake plus one share in what is described as the third largest bank in Europe after HSBC and Santander.

With 19,000 branches across 11 time zones, Sberbank has major international aspirations and has already bought banks in countries such as Turkey.

The sale comes as stock markets have been buoyed by the latest round of electronic money printing – quantitative easing – by the Federal Reserve, although there is lingering anxiety about whether Spain will ask its eurozone partners for a bailout.

An auction of the shares – in the form of global depository shares – was under way on Monday and is expected to close by Wednesday.

“We expect the transaction to close successfully given the stock’s attractive valuation, the bank’s strong fundamentals and improved market conditions following the announcement of QE3. Sberbank remains our top pick in Russia: we believe the lender is the best play on the underpenetrated Russian consumer lending market,” analysts at Citi said.

The sales being sold represent a 7.58% stake in Sberbank whose assets account for more than a quarter of the entire Russian banking sector.

Herman Gref, the chairman of the Sberbank, said the sale was an opportunity to “diversify” the existing share base. “We view this as a critical step in our broader plan to reinforce Sberbank’s position as the leading Russian financial institution, and transform it into one of the world’s top performing banks in terms of profitability, operational efficiency and service quality,” Gref said.

The sale is part of a privatisation programme that has been delayed by market volatility. Sberbank will have a regulated stock market listing in London for the first time following the sale.

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