Arab Today, arab today russia taps thawing markets with 54 bn
Last Updated : GMT 05:49:56
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Russia taps thawing markets with $5.4 bn

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Arab Today, arab today Russia taps thawing markets with $5.4 bn

Moscow - AFP

Russia became the first emerging market to tap into a recent uptick in investor confidence by unveiling Monday a $5.4-billion auction of a minority stake in its prized main lender Sberbank. The Central Bank of Russia said the 7.58-percent stake sell-off would leave the state with a 50-percent plus one voting share holding in the country\'s main retail financial institution. The auction comes in the midst of a three-year $40-billion privatisation programme designed to kick-start the economy after the critical slowdown that followed the 2008 global financial crisis. A central bank statement said the stake would be auctioned off in both dollars as global depository shares (GDS) on the London Stock Exchange and rubles as ordinary shares appearing on Moscow\'s MICEX exchange. The auction was expected to finish on Wednesday. Russian law forbids foreign investors -- estimated to currently hold about 20 percent -- from owning more than a quarter of the company. The other private shareholders who take up the remaining Sberbank shares are also forbidden from trading stock for 180 days after the placement. \"The offerings represent an opportunity for us to further diversify Sberbank\'s investor base and secure an international stock exchange listing,\" said Sberbank chief executive German Gref. The modern version of the venerable tsarist-era bank was founded in 1990 and now plays a pivotal role in the Russian economy while also being one of its most heavily-traded stocks. Sberbank provides emergency credits to other lenders and holds nearly half of the country\'s savings. It also issues about a third of its loans. The bank said it would place the ordinary shares in Moscow at the initial price of 91 rubles ($2.98) and set the final value at the market rate. A source told Interfax that the entire offering had been fully booked at what had primarily been an open-ended market price by the end-of-day Monday -- an omen for an initial jump in the price of the stock. Another said to RIA Novosti that the giant Texas-base TPG Capital investment fund wanted to expand its current $100-million holding in Sberbank ten-fold to more than a billion dollars. \"We believe the chances for the successful completion of the transaction are high,\" the Swiss-based UBS financial service company said. The set of announcements mark an important victory for President Vladimir Putin as he pushes ahead with privatisation despite headwinds from a tumultuous European economy and uncertainty about the Russian market abroad. The massive sell-off drive -- the largest since the 1990s -- was initially intended to help cover the vast expense of a new spending programme the government had been planning for Putin\'s historic third term. But the strongman leader\'s formal return in May was marked by continued wobbles in Europe and massive outflows of Western investor capital from Russia that are estimated at billions of dollars per month. Investor fears about Russia tend to dissipate with improvements in global sentiment and the government now appears to be betting that recent European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve action will spur the markets in the months to come. Some analysts predicted the gamble to pay off big as Western investors seek profit in an emerging market that has recently underperformed its rivals because of political and bureaucratic risks. \"We believe that the central bank\'s offering is well timed, both because of market strength and because of expected pressure on sector and Sberbank profitability,\" Moscow\'s Alfa Bank said in a research note. \"We expect the deal to be a success given the high risk appetite following the European Central Bank\'s outright monetary transactions (OMT) and the Fed\'s (quantitative easing) proposal,\" Russia\'s VTB Capital agreed.

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