April 2, 2014 / 11:32 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 2-Russia's Binbank to take over Ukrainian bank unit after "political pressure"

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By Oksana Kobzeva

MOSCOW, April 2 (Reuters) - Russian lender Binbank said on Wednesday it could buy the Moscow subsidiary of Ukraine’s Privatbank in two weeks from its Ukrainian owners who say they were under political pressure to sell.

Russia’s central bank put Moskomprivatbank under temporary administration last month to prevent its bankruptcy, but some analysts said it was aimed at punishing Ukraine’s new rulers for pursuing closer ties to the West. Moscow denies the charge.

Privatbank, Ukraine’s largest bank, said its subsidiary had faced unwarranted political pressure, suggesting it was a victim of the standoff between Moscow and Kiev which resulted in Russia annexing Crimea.

Privatbank is part of Privat group, co-owned by Igor Kolomoisky, called “a unique imposter” by President Vladimir Putin last month when the businessman was appointed governor of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region.

Binbank’s co-owner, Mikail Shishkanov, said the Ukrainian side would be happy with the deal.

“It is an absolutely friendly, normal business deal ... in any case the Ukrainian partners will be satisfied,” he told journalists, adding the deal should be closed in two weeks.

He said Binbank, a medium-sized lender, would pay for the deal with cash and shares in property in Ukraine.

Privatbank said in a statement the Russian authorities had made it difficult to operate.

“Despite the unprecedented political pressure on Moskomprivatbank from the Russian authorities, effectively blocking bank checks and the unreasonable imposition of temporary administration, the bank continued to work and fulfilled all its obligations to customers,” it said.

“We are emerging from a difficult situation with our heads held high despite the difficult political situation.”

Ukraine’s new rulers have accused Russia of moving to confiscate Ukrainian businesses in Russia to punish the new western direction of its government, installed after months of protests against pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich.

But Binbank said Russia’s Deposit Insurance Agency had ruled that Moskomprivatbank, Russia’s 95th biggest by assets according to Interfax news agency data, did not have enough liquidity to cover its obligations and a “lack of a fully-fledged independent information infrastructure”.

Last month, Moskomprivatbank, with assets of 50 billion roubles ($1.4 billion), had capital requirement ratios above the levels required by the Russian central bank to keep a banking licence.

According to the central bank’s data for January, the latest available, it had no violations of capital requirements.

It was not clear what had changed since then. (Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova and Natalia Zinets in Kiev, Writing by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Anna Willard)

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