MOSCOW/PARIS, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Russian businessman and lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov is in talks with the majority shareholders of Russia’s Vozrozhdenie bank about buying their stake in the lender, two sources close to the talks told Reuters on Wednesday.
The bank’s majority owners, brothers Dmitry and Alexei Ananyev, are required by the Russian central bank to reduce their stake to 10 percent, under the terms of a bailout for another lender the brothers controlled.
The two sources said Kerimov, whose family control Russia’s top gold producer Polyus, is one of the possible buyers of Vozrozhdenie in talks with the Ananyev brothers, and that no deal had yet been signed.
Vozrozhdenie is Russia’s 36th biggest bank by assets.
One of the sources said that Kerimov, who is under investigation by French prosecutors for tax fraud, planned to travel from France to Russia to finalise the deal. Kerimov has denied the prosecutors’ allegations, Russian media have reported.
Kerimov was arrested at Nice airport in the south of France in November last year. A judge said he could be released while his case is being investigated, but he would have to seek permission to travel outside the Nice region.
Jean-Michel Pretre, the Nice prosecutor, told Reuters that Kerimov has asked to go back to Russia for personal reasons. The prosecutor did not specify the dates or whether Kerimov had already left France but said prosecutors had no objections for the trip.
A representative for Kerimov in Russia’s upper house of parliament, where Kerimov is a lawmaker, did not reply to a Reuters request for a comment. Both Dmitry and Alexei Ananyev declined to comment on the talks.
The two sources, and a third banking source, said that Russian pension fund Blagosostoyanie was another contender to buy Vozrozhdenie.
Last week, Vozrozhdenie published a list of candidates for its board of directors that included the name of Yury Novozhilov, executive director of Blagosostoyanie. The list was later withdrawn.
Both Blagosostoyanie and Vozrozhdenie did not reply to a Reuters request seeking a comment. VTB, Russia’s No.2 bank, last month publicly expressed its interest in buying Vozrozhdenie. (Additional reporting by Oksana Kobzeva and Polina Devitt; writing by Katya Golubkova; editing by Christian Lowe)