January 23, 2020 / 9:21 AM / a month ago

Sberbank CEO could resign if shareholder change modifies strategy: RIA

MOSCOW (Reuters) - German Gref, the chief executive of Russia’s Sberbank (SBER.MM), could leave his post if a possible shareholder change at the bank results in a switch in its strategy, the RIA news agency quoted him as saying on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Chief Executive of Sberbank German Gref attends a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Gorki state residence outside Moscow, Russia October 31, 2019. Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS

The Russian government has been in talks with the central bank to buy the latter’s 50% plus one share stake in Sberbank, the country’s largest lender.

“When I came to this position, I came with a certain approach,” said Gref, who has served as the bank’s CEO since 2007.

“If this approach changes, I don’t see my place in the company.”

Gref said he hoped a shareholder change would not modify the bank’s strategy. “We strongly believe that the strategy is the right one,” he was quoted as saying.

“We have had interesting discussions with the government regarding the use of our platform for digital services. We are very interested (in this), I hope we will move in that direction,” Gref added.

Management of Sberbank remains on track to recommend a dividend payment of 50% of net income for 2019, but the payment will be subject to final approval by board of directors and shareholders, Gref said.

Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev said on Wednesday that the mechanism behind the central bank’s potential exit from Sberbank’s shareholder structure was being discussed and that a final decision had yet to be made.

If the government did in fact take over the central bank’s shares, Sberbank would come under the control of Russia’s federal government property agency, he said.

Despite his concern about a switch in strategy, Gref told state television on Thursday he was more optimistic about the prospect of a change in shareholder.

“I would say that I feel more positively than negatively about this,” he said, speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Polina Devitt; Editing by Jan Harvey

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