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19 May, 2008 16:43

Is Sberbank poised to swallow foreign banks?

The head of Sberbank has admitted that he faces a “massive challenge” in turning the corporation into one of the world’s biggest banks. Analysts say the country’s largest financial corporation can only achieve its goal by going on a foreign ac

Sberbank’s monopoly of high-street banking across thousands of Russian towns helped its net profit to soar to more than $US 4.9 billion last year. On Monday, the state-controlled bank pledged to return 10 per cent of that as dividends to shareholders.

Its new boss German Gref claimed he would turn the domestic giant into one of the world’s top ten banks within six years through aggressive acquisitions in Eastern Europe and Asia. He said Sberbank had hired “an unprecedented number of global financial experts to achieve that goal”.
The chief economist at Alfa Bank, Natalia Orlova, said Sberbank would have to fundamentally transform itself from an “old people’s” bank in order to grow.

“Sixty to seventy per cent of Sberbank retail deposits are money coming from pension deposits. But the old people in Russia do not care much about the quality of banking services,” she said.
Sberbank has vowed to more than double its market capitalisation to $US 200 billion by 2014. And it is expected to submit its brand new strategy in September.

While experts say that expansion can only come from buying abroad, the company has denied rumours it's in takeover talks for Italy’s BMPS and Germany’s Dresdner Bank.