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SocGen CEO sees no sign of discrimination by Russian authorities
October 1, 2014 / 11:24 AM / 3 years ago

SocGen CEO sees no sign of discrimination by Russian authorities

* SocGen remains committed to Russia

* CEO Oudea says bank to easily manage even an extreme scenario

* Sees demand from international clients for rouble financing

By Maya Nikolaeva

PARIS, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Societe Generale said it remained committed to its business in sanctions-hit Russia and that France’s second-biggest listed lender would easily cope even with an extreme situation of expropriation.

Banks in Russia are having to adapt their business to sanctions imposed by Western countries that froze international deals by firing staff and reshuffling roles to keep costs down.

Asked if Societe Generale had a contingency plan for its business in Russia, Chief Executive Frederic Oudea said there was no easy solution.

“Even if you have an extreme scenario in mind, a kind of expropriation... for us it will have a relatively limited impact in terms of capital, I think it is something we can easily manage,” he said.

Societe Generale has 3 billion euros ($3.78 billion) of capital invested in Russia and 1.3 billion euros of external financing as of the end of July 2014, Oudea said.

It booked a 525 million euro writedown this year on the value of its Russian unit, Rosbank, after months of political crisis in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, Societe Generale affirmed its commitment to the Russian market and said it saw no sign of authorities imposing capital controls.

“It is a view, shared with my banking colleagues in the banking sector in Russia, it is in no interest of Russia to block the flow of financing from the banking market in the current situation,” Oudea told an investor conference in London.

“We see no sign of discrimination by the authorities,” he said in comments broadcast over the Internet.

Russia’s central bank denied a media report on Tuesday that Russia was weighing the introduction of temporary capital controls, which had sent the rouble tumbling.

SocGen, which bought into Rosbank in 2006, spent billions of dollars to fix the underperforming Russian bank. Many rivals have quit a country where they could not compete with large state-controlled banks like Sberbank and VTB Capital .

“The outlook is less positive than it was 12 months ago, but we are adjusting our business,” Oudea said. “Cost of risk is under control, it will remain more or less stable compared to the second quarter.”

Economic growth in Russia had slowed due to sanctions, but the country was showing overall resilience thanks to low public debt and the central bank’s reserves, Oudea added.

Russia would function more with rouble financing, as international markets were virtually blocked for many Russian companies.

“I also see this adjustment by our international clients. They want us to finance more in roubles,” Oudea said. (1 US dollar = 0.7933 euro) (Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Brian Love)

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