Russia's Sberbank looking at opening a branch in China

ST PETERSBURG, Russia Thu May 22, 2014 1:26pm EDT

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ST PETERSBURG, Russia May 22 (Reuters) - Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, is looking at various options to expand in China, where it sees huge potential, a senior executive of the bank said on Thursday.

Having opened a representative office in Beijing in 2011, the state-controlled bank will be able to open an actual branch there next year, Sberbank's deputy chairman Sergei Gorkov said.

"The potential is huge, the question is our niche," said Gorkov. "We (are trying) to find our niche."

Gorkov said Sberbank is spending this year understanding the market and would make a decision by the end of the year about "when and how" it would open a branch.

On Wednesday the presidents of Russia and China signed in Shanghai a $400 billion gas supply deal, opening up a new gas market for Moscow as it risks losing European customers over the Ukraine crisis.

Outside Russia, Sberbank has a presence in countries including Kazakhstan and Turkey, and has representative offices in Germany and a branch office in India. (Reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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