November 28, 2017 / 5:17 PM / a year ago

SocGen sees double-digit organic growth in Russia

* Targets growth in Russia of more than 11 pct a year until 2020

* CEO Oudea rules out acquisitions there

* Sees more dealings between Chinese and Russian businesses

PARIS, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Societe Generale ruled out acquisitions in Russia, where the banking sector is going through a wave of consolidation, but it is betting on a stronger economy to grow revenue by more than 11 percent a year there until 2020.

The Russian unit of France’s third-largest listed bank is recovering after two years of losses following the economic uncertainty linked to sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and the Ukraine conflict.

“We have three years of good organic growth ahead of us,” Socgen’s Chief Executive Frederic Oudea told journalists on Tuesday.

Russia’s banking sector is undergoing a far-reaching transformation as the central bank cleans up the market.

Since the beginning of the year, the central bank revoked 57 banking licences, reducing the number of banks in Russia to 524 from more than 1,000 a few years ago.

This year, the banking sector has been under greater scrutiny after two major private banks, Otkritie Bank & B&N Bank, sought bailouts from the central bank within a month.

SocGen said it expected the Russian economy to continue to recover gradually in 2018 and beyond and that the clean-up of the banking sector was an opportunity to become the biggest foreign bank in the country.

“As for previous years, 2015, 2016, our losses were significantly lower than what we had expected,” Oudea said.

SocGen said during a presentation to investors it was targeting annual revenue growth in Russia of more than 11 percent a year until 2020.

It is rare for a foreign lender to expand in Russia.

Most of the foreign banks opened their Russian branches before the 2008-2009 financial crisis but foreign banks’ exposure to Russia has declined since 2014, when the West imposed sanctions on Moscow.

SocGen’s retail banking unit Rosbank is ranked 13 by the size of its assets in Russia and is the second-largest lender with a foreign headquarters after Italy’s Unicredit . The third largest foreign bank, ranked 14th by assets, is Austria’s Raiffeisenbank.

SocGen said that it has overtaken Unicredit lately as the biggest foreign lender when taking into account a full range of banking services, such as leasing operations.

SocGen said it was willing to diversify its corporate clients and cited increasing transactions between Chinese and Russian businesses.

Oudea spoke on the sidelines of a SocGen investor day, at which he said the cross-border bank deals in Europe are unlikely in the short term. (Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva in Paris and Andrew Ostroukh in Moscow; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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