OAO Sberbank (SBER), Russia’s largest lender, is focusing its international expansion this year in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and plans to grow in Austria and Germany, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Sergey Gorkov said.
The bank, which spent more than $4 billion on overseas acquisitions in 2012, has no immediate plans for more deals as it builds its European network, Gorkov said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland yesterday. The state-controlled lender is also weighing a move into China, he said.
“We have strongly developed a corporate business in Europe and have become noticeable,” said Gorkov, who joined Sberbank in 2008. “Competitors such as Raiffeisen and UniCredit are taking note of us.”
Sberbank is seeking to grow outside of the former Soviet Union as some western European lenders sell units in Eastern Europe to comply with capital rules or state aid conditions. The Moscow-based bank purchased most of Oesterreichische Volksbanken’s eastern European business for 505 million euros ($688 million) in 2012. That same year it also acquired Turkey’s Denizbank AS (DENIZ) from Belgium’s Dexia SA (DEXB) for $3.5 billion.
Sberbank, Eastern Europe’s largest bank by market value, plans to add 20 branches in the Czech Republic this year and will also expand in Slovakia, Gorkov said. Vienna-based Sberbank Europe AG includes lenders in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Ukraine.
Sberbank, headed by the German-speaking former Economy Minister Herman Gref, will seek permission to enter Germany this year and plans to double its 1 billion-euro corporate investments in Austria after securing a banking license there last year, Gorkov said. VTB Group, Russia’s second-largest bank, already provides direct banking services in Germany.
Sberbank isn’t in talks to acquire Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI), Gorkov said. “Raiffeisen is an interesting bank, but has big problems, particularly in Hungary and the Balkans,” he said. Sberbank doesn’t plan to enter Romania, he said.
Gorkov said the bank is also considering China, the world’s second-largest economy. “This year we need to find the right decision on China,” he said. “We have a few ideas.”
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