Russian senator, billionaire buys 1.5% of VTB bank: report

17th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russian billionaire investor Suleiman Kerimov has bought shares worth $500 million (370 million euros) in state bank VTB to become its biggest private shareholder, the Vedomosti business daily reported Thursday.

Two funds belonging to Kerimov, a senator in Russia's upper house of parliament, bought more than a 1.5 percent stake in VTB as Russia sold off 10 percent of its shares on Monday, his spokesman told Vedomosti.

Kerimov, 44, comes from the North Caucasus region of Dagestan and represents the troubled region as a senator in Russia's upper house, the Federation Council.

The 2011 rich list compiled by Russia's Finans magazine this week put Kerimov at number seven with a fortune of $16.9 billion.

While he generally keeps a low profile, Kerimov hit the headlines in 2006 when he crashed a Ferrari in the south of France, suffering serious burns.

Kerimov is currently steering a prominent merger between potash miners Uralkali and Silvinit, with the aim of creating a single company dominating the sector in Russia and able to compete internationally.

Kerimov plans to play an active role in the planned privatisations of state companies, an investment banker close to the investor told Vedomosti, with a particular interest in the largest bank, Sberbank.

Sberbank plans to sell a 7.6 percent stake in the second half of this year and Kerimov is prepared to buy the whole amount if allowed by Sberbank's chief German Gref, the source said.

Kerimov bought shares in Sberbank earlier but sold them in 2008 before the financial sector was hit by the world economic crisis, sources told Vedomosti.

VTB vice president Herbert Moos said Monday that Italian insurer Generali had bought $300 million worth of the bank's shares, while US investment fund TPG bought shares worth $100 million.

The Russian government said Monday that the VTB share sale raised $3.2 billion in all, calling it the most "successful offering of share capital in the Russian market" since the financial crisis.

Russia last year unveiled a huge five-year privatisation drive in which it hopes to raise some $60 billion, a dramatic change in policy after a decade that saw the government increase control over key assets.

© 2011 AFP

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