May 19, 2012 / 8:13 PM / 5 years ago

Russia Sberbank sees sale certainty after government formed

CEO of Russian Sberbank Herman Gref attends a plenary session of the World Economic Forum in Vienna June 8, 2011. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Europe’s second largest lender Russia’s Sberbank (SBER.MM) will see some certainty over the planned privatization sale after the new Russian government’s lineup is announced on May 21, CEO German Gref said on Saturday.

Sberbank initially planned the sale of the 7.6 percent stake, part of Russia’s ambitious privatization program, last September but postponed the deal after global risk aversion wiped around $1.5 billion off the stake’s value.

“It seems to me that, yes, such certainty should emerge (after the cabinet announcement),” Gref said. “As soon as the market stabilizes, we can go ahead with the deal.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will announce the lineup in the Kremlin on Monday after secretive negotiations which kept the investors in suspense over the future government’s policies.

The new government is expected to focus on privatization and reduce the state share in the economy, currently estimated by economists at 50 percent.

Sberbank shares fell by up to 9 percent on May 17, their biggest intraday fall so far in 2012. Gref said the share price plummeted because two unidentified investors suffered from margin calls.

The stake destined for privatization is now worth $4.3 billion.

ABNORMAL SITUATION

Gref said that Sberbank, the biggest blue chip stock on the Russian market, held between 30 and 60 percent of the daily trade volume share on the Russian stock market and therefore was the main victim of volatility.

“It is the question for the government. It is an abnormal situation when one stock makes up for half of the daily trade,” said Gref. “It would be a pity to sell Sberbank at current levels.”

Sberbank closed at 78.2 roubles per share on May 18, well below the 100 per roubles per share which the bank sees as the favorable level for the sale to proceed.

Gref spoke on the sidelines of his visit to the United States where he met top management of key technology firms and discussed cooperation in airplane leasing business with Boeing (BA.N).

Gref said Sberbank expressed interest in Dexia’s planned sale of Turkish unit Denizbank, Turkey’s sixth-biggest private bank but said it had no interest in Dexia assets outside Turkey.

“We have made enough acquisitions. Now we have two targets left - Turkey and Poland. Turkey is a much more significant goal,” Gref said. “In the next few years we need to consolidate these assets. I am not a big supporter of aggressive growth.”

Dexia is being dismantled and its assets sold after France, Belgium and Luxembourg had to bail it out in October, after it was crippled by the euro zone debt crisis when it was shut out of funding markets.

Gref said he believed in the euro and said the currency will strengthen after Greece’s exit from the eurozone which he saw as imminent.

“There is a zero chance to keep Greece in the eurozone. Why torture a country which is not capable to show a level of competitiveness needed to stay in the union. This year Greece will leave the eurozone,” Gref said.

Reporting by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Jackie Frank

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