£3bn Sberbank stake sale under way

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The Independent Online

Russia launched the long-awaited sale of a $5bn (£3bn) stake in Sberbank yesterday, reducing its controlling interest in Europe's third-largest bank by equity value and reviving its stalled privatisation programme.

The sale of a 7.6 per cent stake in Sberbank has been held up for more than a year by weak markets, but last week's announcement of a new round of credit easing by the US lifted sentiment and opened the window to a placing.

Russian stocks rallied by 8 per cent on Friday, propelling Sberbank shares to their highest since April and putting the state in a position to sell into strength.

"This was the best imaginable day of the past 15 months to take the decision to go to the market," German Gref, the chief executive, said. He added that he hoped asset managers in China, Singapore and Hong Kong, among others, would be interested in the offering.

The bank will hold investor presentations today in London and New York.

The sale will boost the liquidity of Russia's most actively traded stock, widely viewed by investors as a proxy for economic growth running at 4 per cent, and by one estimate the world's best-performing large-company stock over the past decade after Apple.