Owners of sanctioned Russian bank to offload stakes – FT
Businessmen Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven are set to sell their stakes in Alfa-Bank, Russia’s largest private lender, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing people close to the discussions.
According to the report, Fridman and Aven currently own 45% of the bank via a Luxembourg-based holding company that controls the lender’s Cyprus-based parent company ABH Financial Limited. Their shares will reportedly be sold to Alfa-Bank’s third co-owner, Andrei Kosogov, for 178 billion rubles ($2.3 billion). Kosogov, who already owns a 41% stake in the bank, confirmed to FT that the deal has been agreed, but made no further comments as to the details.
Alfa-Bank’s press service also confirmed on Friday that such a deal is being prepared but noted that it is too early to speak about the particulars. The sale is expected to be finalized later this spring, once it is approved by the Russian central bank and tax authorities.
Unlike Kosogov, who is not subject to the Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia, both Fridman and Aven have been targeted by Western authorities for their alleged ties to the Russian government. Both billionaires have challenged the EU sanctions against them in court, and now “want to do everything they can to get out of their Russian assets so that sanctions will be removed,” one of the sources told the news outlet.
Meanwhile, according to sources, the sale will also benefit Alfa-Bank, as Russia’s counter-sanctions against “unfriendly countries,” which include Cyprus, have entailed difficulties for the lender’s governance and have limited its access to state funding.
“Fridman and Aven escape sanctions, Kosogov gets the bank, and the bank has one single Russian shareholder,” one of the sources summed up the deal.
Alfa-Bank was added by the EU in its tenth sanctions package last month. According to a filing released shortly before it was blacklisted, parent ABH Financial Limited was keen “to dispose of this controversial asset in order to avoid further regulatory, political and reputational implications,” as Alfa-Bank had become “toxic” for its beneficiaries.
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