January 23, 2020 / 8:50 AM / 25 days ago

UPDATE 1-Russia's VTB to seek investors for its grain business in Feb - Interfax

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MOSCOW, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Russia’s VTB plans to attract one or more investors for its grain business in February, the Interfax news agency reported on Thursday, citing its first deputy chief executive.

The state-controlled bank became the largest operator of Russia’s grain export infrastructure and a major grain trader after a series of acquisitions in 2019. It has said it planned to expand its grain business further and then exit.

“It (the partner) will appear in February, maybe even more than one,” Interfax quoted VTB’s Yuri Soloviev as saying.

The investors are likely to be Russian partners, he said, adding that the size of the stake for sale is being discussed, but VTB would retain a controlling stake.

VTB, Russia’s second largest lender, previously said it could sell a stake in its grain business in December, but no deal has been announced. It also said previously it could team up with a global trader.

VTB is consolidating its grain assets in Demetra (Demeter) Holding, which it owns via affiliates. Its assets include stakes in grain terminals in the Black Sea port of Novorovossiisk, in local grain trader Miro and in Russia’s largest grain rail-wagon owner Rustranscom (RTC).

Soloviev said VTB’s stake in the holding could in theory drop below 75% after the sale but the aim of the bank is to “keep the management of the integrated chain” for itself.

“We are going to maintain control, because we believe that we need to finish the job, develop operational management, move the company forward.”

“However, we are a bank and we have to take risks into account, so we always need experienced and professional partners. We are looking for them, and we plan to further develop this business with them,” Soloviev was quoted as saying by Interfax. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Jan Harvey and David Evans)

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