Home Business Russia’s No.2 lender VTB to buy rescued Otkritie Bank for $4.7 bln

Russia’s No.2 lender VTB to buy rescued Otkritie Bank for $4.7 bln

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MOSCOW — The Bank of Russia on Thursday agreed to sell bailed-out Otkritie Bank to the country’s No.2 lender, state-owned VTB, for 340 billion roubles ($4.7 billion), in a deal expected to close by the end of the year.

The transaction consists of 233 billion roubles in cash and the remainder in OFZ treasury bonds, the central bank said. VTB’s Moscow-listed shares jumped 3.4% as of 0958 GMT.

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The central bank bailed out Otkritie, once Russia’s largest private lender, in 2017 as part of a years-long campaign to clean up the country’s banking sector.

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Otkritie had previously been linked with a possible sale to Italy’s UniCredit or even a public stock market launch before sanctions torpedoed plans for anything more than a domestic transaction.

The central bank and VTB said in separate statements that they had agreed to transfer all the shares in Otkritie by Dec. 31, subject to VTB paying in full.

While dominant lender Sberbank has turned a monthly profit this quarter, VTB, which has fallen under some of the toughest sanctions imposed on Russia’s financial sector, is struggling, something that had raised doubts about the long-awaited Otkritie purchase.

“VTB appears to be experiencing specific capital problems,” Alfa Bank senior analyst Evgeniy Kipnis told Reuters. “Based on recent statements from VTB Bank’s CEO, due to sanctions, the bank has frozen assets abroad worth around 600 billion roubles.”

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“That is 27% of the bank’s capital,” Kipnis said. “It is obvious that the bank needs additional capital in connection with this.”

Earlier this month, VTB said it had temporarily suspended coupon payments on a number of subordinated bond issues, a move approved by the central bank.

The central bank had been keen to sell. Governor Elvira Nabiullina said last Friday it was not normal for the regulator to also own a bank.

“This deal will ensure the development of the banking sector without the involvement of the central bank as owner,” Nabiullina said.

VTB said nothing would change for Otkritie clients in the near future and that it would develop a plan to integrate Otkritie’s business after the transaction closes.

“Independent assessor DRT assessed (Otkritie’s shares’) market value in the range of 328-374 billion roubles,” the central bank said.

Otkritie and its group of companies have previously been valued at up to 400 billion roubles. ($1 = 72.3200 roubles) (Reporting by Maria Kiselyova, Alexander Marrow and Elena Fabrichnaya; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Arun Koyyur)

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