Barclays set for Russian move

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The Independent Online

Banking group Barclays today entered the Russian retail banking market by agreeing a deal to buy Expobank for 745 million US dollars (£373m).

The Moscow-based operation, which has 32 branches across western Russia, caters for more than 250,000 customers. The acquisition is expected to go through by summer this year and will result in Barclays first retail banking presence in the country.

Frits Seegers, chief executive of Barclays' global retail and commercial banking arm, said the group had been keen to get into the Russian retail market "for some time".

A spokesman for Barclays said the plan was to eventually rebrand Expobank as Barclays following a period of consultation with customers. This would then be followed by an expansion drive of the network.

Expobank was founded in 1994 and now has 1,300 employees. As at the end of December 2007 it had net assets of 186 million US dollars (£93m). It is one of Russia's top 50 banks by size of network.

Mr Seegers said: "Expobank is a well-run bank with a good track record of innovative distribution and represents a great opportunity for Barclays.

"Its existing relationships and infrastructure create the ideal platform for us to become one of the leading retail and commercial banks in Russia, one of the world's fastest growing economies and a market we have been keen to enter for some time."

Barclays already operates in Russia for corporations and other investors through its Barclays Capital arm.

UK rival HSBC also has a presence in the country servicing domestic and corporate clients.

Barclays said it hoped to see a return on its investment "significantly" above the cost of equity by 2011.

Expobank's current chairman Kirill Yakubovskiy will remain on the board.

He said: "Becoming part of the Barclays group is the start of a new era not only for Expobank itself, but also for the Russian banking sector as a whole.

"The professionalism and vast experience of Barclays will make an invaluable contribution to Expobank's further development in a transaction that is beneficial for all involved."

Russia's economic output grew by 8.1% last year buoyed by vast mineral and energy wealth.

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