* Asset integration priority in next three years
* Bank not in a “buying” mood
By Dmitry Zhdannikov
DAVOS, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Russia’s largest lender Sberbank will focus on integrating previous buys and enhancing the bank’s existing products in the next three years, rather than on new acquisitions, Chief Executive German Gref said on Thursday.
The bank, formed in Tsarist Russia in the first half of the 19th Century as a people’s saving institution, last year completed a $1 billion takeover of brokerage Troika Dialog to expand its product range.
It is now the largest eastern European bank.
Gref, in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, said last year’s buys completed a “maximum acquisition programme.”
“In the next three years, we’re faced with the task of an effective integration,” Gref told Reuters. “We have a huge amount of assets that need to be digested.”
Sberbank, headed by former economy minister Gref since late 2007, has been gradually transformed into a global player by snapping up foreign assets, such as the eastern European arm of Austria’s Oesterreichische Volksbanken (OeVAG), VBI and Turkey’s Denizbank.
Gref said late last year he sees the bank’s profits at $13 billion this year.
A key challenge for the bank, the 48-year-old lawyer said, is to keep its return-on-equity ratio at over 20 percent, after it reached 25 percent last year.
“We’re too big of a bank for Russia,” he said. “We cannot grow here strongly: I do not think it is good for the country and the company.”
But he added that the bank will exercise a selective attitude towards future acquisitions. “We’re not in a mood to buy everything that’s for sale,” he said.