Russia Sberbank CEO calls for state banks sale

Thu Jan 28, 2010 8:04am EST
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By Gleb Bryanski

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - The head of Russia's largest lender Sberbank SBER03.MM called on Thursday for a privatization of Russian state-controlled banks, but Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said markets were not ready yet.

Sberbank, controlled by the central bank, and rival VTB (VTBR.MM: Quote), which is controlled by the government, together own about one third of the banking sector assets in Russia. Both banks were severely hit by the economic crisis.

Kudrin, who sits on the board of both banks, said VTB was more likely to feature in any sell-off before Sberbank, which is a home to roughly a half of the country's retail deposits.

Russia plans to raise about $2.5 billion from privatizations this year, although officials have signaled that investors interested in state-controlled heavyweights -- including Sberbank -- will have to wait beyond 2010.

However, Sberbank CEO German Gref said that privatizing his bank could be a good way to help reduce a budget deficit left by Russia's first recession in a decade.

"We need to privatize state banks and let's start with Sberbank," Gref said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Kudrin said he supported banking sector privatization but now was not the right moment to sell.

"I am also waiting for the moment when we start to sell banks...The market has not yet recovered after the crisis, for now it is too soon. We will wait," Kudrin said at the forum in Switzerland.   Continued...