Sberbank courts SWFs ahead of $5 bln stake sale

Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:19am EDT

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* Meetings come ahead of planned 7.6 pct stake sale

* Recent market sell-off cut stake value by $1 bln

* Sale unlikely to be postponed-sources

By Oksana Kobzeva

MOSCOW, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Russia's top lender Sberbank hopes to line up Asian and Arab wealth funds next week as core investors in its 7.6 percent stake sale, two banking sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

A team set to meet the funds will be headed by Chief Executive German Gref, with Alexei Ulyukayev, a first deputy chairman at Russia's central bank and a member of Sberbank's supervisory board, joining the trip.

"Gref plans to meet sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East and Asia who are interested in acting as core investors," one source said, adding Sberbank also plans meetings in Beijing and Singapore.

Gref said in July he planned to meet Chinese investors this or next month, after media reports that the country's $300 billion sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp may join in the stake sale.

The source confirmed Gref's plans to meet Chinese investors, saying funds from Abu Dhabi might also be interested.

Sources told Reuters in June that Sberbank planned to sell the stake by mid-September, before global market turmoil wiped around $1 billion off its value. The stake is now worth $5.2 billion.

Officials indicated they would not sell the 7.6 percent stake cheaply, raising concerns that the privatisation may be postponed after Sberbank's share price dropped more than 15 percent since the beginning of August.

Ulyukayev told Interfax news agency late on Monday that the central bank, which owns a majority in Sberbank, had not changed its plans to sell the stake.

"There is no intention to change the sale plans, we are still looking at the middle of September. But if the markets are too fragile, the timing might be adjusted a little. The plan is to sell this year," one of the sources said.

Sberbank declined to comment. The central bank was not available for comment. (Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova; Editing by David Cowell)

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