MOSCOW, June 3 (Reuters) - Russia’s second-biggest bank VTB said on Monday it was buying a controlling stake in Russian railway holding company RTC, a major transporter of grain and timber cargo.
The state-controlled bank has been expanding its holdings in grain infrastructure in recent months, which some traders have interpreted as a sign of the Russian government’s growing involvement in the sector.
VTB said its acquisition of 50% plus one share in RTC, which manages a fleet of 68,000 freight cars, would link up its other grain export and trade logistics, making Russia’s supply chains more effective and globally competitive.
“Russia in recent years has significantly increased the volumes of wheat and other grains it produces and exports, and based on these indicators is in the top three globally,” VTB said in a statement.
“This has taken on a strategic character for national agriculture and the economy of the country as a whole,” VTB said.
In February, VTB surprised the market by buying its second grain terminal in the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, giving it significantly more control over the main deep-sea grain export hub in Russia, which is the world’s largest wheat exporter.
At the time, Yuri Soloviev, VTB’s first deputy chief executive told reporters that the state bank sees the possibility of working with the government to expand Russia’s grain export potential.
Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Louise Heavens