MOSCOW, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Russia’s biggest bank Sberbank plans to sell its 25% stake in biometrics company VisionLabs to Sistema to focus instead on its investment in rival group Speech Technology Center, two sources close to Sberbank and Sistema told Reuters on Tuesday.
Sberbank controls Speech Technology Center, which competes with VisionLabs in the face and voice recognition business. This business is booming in Russia where biometric technology is being used to facilitate payments in the Moscow metro or in food shops. The technology is also used for security and other public-to-private needs.
Sberbank has just over a 25% stake in VisionLabs which it bought four years ago from VisionLabs founders and the Sistema VC fund, part of the Sistema conglomerate, which has businesses in telecoms, agriculture, forestry and some other areas.
The sources said to avoid conflict of interest it was decided that a company linked to Sistema would buy Sberbank’s stake back.
“It was decided that a company linked to Sistema would buy Sberbank out,” the source close to Sistema said. The sources did not say how much the stake in VisionLabs would cost Sistema.
Sistema VC and Sberbank declined to comment.
Sberbank has been expanding into businesses outside banking, including food delivery and cyber security to diversify its activities into fast growing e-commerce.
Sberbank, with dozens of non-banking assets under its umbrella already, targets around 60% of total revenue from non-core areas by the end of this decade.
Sberbank executives have said the bank may conduct initial public offerings of some of its so-called “ecosystem” companies that are outside its mainstream banking business.
$1 = 73.2130 roubles Reporting by Tatiana Voronova. Writing by Katya Golubkova. Editing by Jane Merriman
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