VTB Bank sells 25% stake in St Petersburg airport to foreign investors

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VTB, Russia’s second-largest state-run bank, has sold a 25 per cent stake in St Petersburg’s airport to a consortium of mostly foreign investors.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, a $10bn sovereign welfare fund that partners with foreign investors in private equity ventures, is leading the consortium to buy the €250m share in Pulkovo airport alongside Baring Vostok, Russia’s largest private equity group, and unnamed Middle Eastern and Asian investors.

The deal is the latest step in VTB’s attempts to exit its ambitious private equity deals as the bank aims to become profitable independent of state subsidies.

Yuri Soloviev, deputy chief executive of VTB, told the FT “since we’ve finished our historic mission as the controlling shareholder, we’re reducing our role”.

Pulkovo’s passenger numbers and revenue have gone up “two or three times” since VTB began redeveloping it, Mr Soloviev added. “It’s a really modern, quality, high-tech airport, our pride and joy,” he said

VTB now owns 25.01 per cent of the airport’s holding company. Qatar’s sovereign welfare fund, which partnered with RDIF to buy a 24.99 per cent stake in the airport for €238m last year from Germany’s Fraport AG, Greece’s Copelouzos family, and Cyprus’ Koltseva Holdings. Fraport retains a 25.01 per cent stake.

The sale of the stake, which is subject to approval by Russian anti-trust authorities, also indicates a gradual uptick in foreign direct investment after years of near-total inactivity during two years of recession and western sanctions. Qatar and Glencore bought a 19.5 per cent stake in state-run oil behemoth Rosneft late last year for €10.2m.

Foreign investors are also returning to Russia’s equity and debt capital markets. Detsky Mir, the first Russian firm to hold a major initial public offering since the crisis, sold 90 per cent of its $355m IPO to foreign investors.

Russian corporate Eurobond issuance has also skyrocketed in the past year as investors seek some of the highest returns on emerging markets.

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