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Activists in Ukraine’s capital city Kiev on Tuesday morning started dismantling a cinder block wall that had been erected to blockade the central office of Sberbank’s local subsidiary, after news that the Russian-state bank had reached preliminary agreement to exit the market.

Overnight, Sberbank announced it had signed a contract pending regulatory approval to sell its Ukrainian subsidiary at an undisclosed price to a consortium of investors including Latvia’s Norvik Bank and a Belarusian company.

Sberbank said:

We hope that the decision to sell our subsidiary bank will help to unblock its offices and to renew its normal work, which will allow the bank’s customers to continue using the services of one of the most stable and efficient banks in Ukraine without interference, and will create a basis for its further development.

Nationalists earlier this month vandalised Sberbank offices across Ukraine and the central bank imposed sanctions on five local subsidiaries of Russian state-owned banks.

Both developments mounted pressure upon Sberbank to exit Ukraine, a country which has been in a quasi state of war since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and fomented a proxy separatist war in far eastern regions that has claimed some 10,000 lives.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, Norvik Bank identified its main shareholder as Grigory Guselnikov, adding that the majority owner of the consortium would be Said Gutseriyev — the son of Mikhail Gutseriyev, co-owner of Russia’s Russneft oil company.

Norvik’s chairman Oliver Ronald Bramwell said:

We support the European choice of Ukraine and believe we can with our work promote future economic growth of the country.

Describing Sberbank’s Ukraine subsidiary as Ukraine’s 6th largest bank with $2.2bn in assets and 150 branch offices, Said Gutseriyev added in the statement that it has “great infrastructure.”

Initial reaction from Ukraine’s central bank on Sberbank’s plans to sell its subsidiary to a Russia-linked consortium was muted.

It said:

So far, the National Bank of Ukraine has not received any notice of intent from potential investors seeking permission to acquire [Sberbank’s subsidiary] or respective documents required to acquire a qualifying holding in this bank. Decisions on the approval of qualifying holdings in banks by any investors are made in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

As has been repeatedly emphasized, the NBU pushes for an orderly exit from the Ukrainian market of the Ukrainian subsidiaries of Russian state-owned banks, including through their sale.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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