MOSCOW, May 19 (Reuters) - Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, has postponed a decision on whether to pay out its proposed dividend for 2019 until August and delayed its annual shareholder meeting until September because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The state-controlled bank, which had been expected to decide its 2019 dividend on Tuesday, said it might still keep the payout at 50% of net profit, as initially planned.
Russia’s finance ministry recently bought the central bank’s 50% stake in Sberbank and stands to receive around 435 billion roubles ($6 billion) if the dividend is paid as planned.
Chief Executive Officer German Gref said the delay in the decision and the shareholders’ meeting was due to uncertainty surrounding the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
Many banks across the world have cut or scrapped dividend payouts to boost capital reserves needed to issue loans and absorb losses amid fears of a global recession.
Sberbank, which ramped up provisions against bad loans in the first quarter, has said it will remain profitable even under a worst case scenario related to low oil prices and the pandemic.
As of Tuesday, the novel coronavirus had infected nearly 300,000 people and caused more than 2,800 deaths in Russia.
The central bank said earlier this month it had agreed with the finance ministry that Sberbank would target dividend payouts of no less than 50% of its profit through to April 2023.
The finance ministry used Russia’s National Wealth Fund, which is not included in the state budget, to buy the stake in Sberbank.
Proceeds from the deal, which the central bank returned to the finance ministry, helped Russia report a small budget surplus of 9.5 billion roubles, or 0.2% of gross domestic product, last month. That has helped the government to support the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
$1 = 72.5200 roubles Reporting by Tatiana Voronova and Polina Devitt; Additional reporting by Darya Korsunskaya; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Mark Potter