Russian lawmaker Kerimov strikes deal to buy Vozrozhdenie bank: sources

MOSCOW (Corrects Feb. 18 2018 story to make clear that Bonum Capital is not owned by Russian businessman Suleiman Kerimov, but had done work for Kerimov on the deal, according to two banking sources, an assertion Bonum Capital denies.)

(Reuters) - Russian businessman and lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov has reached an agreement to buy Vozrozhdenie bank VZRZ.MM from its majority owners, brothers Dmitry and Alexei Ananyev, three sources close to the deal told Reuters.

The sale forms part of the fallout from a sweeping clean-up of the Russian banking sector last year, which saw the central bank rescue three major lenders, including Promsvyazbank PSBRI.MM, also owned by the Ananyev brothers.

Under the terms of that bailout, the central bank gave the brothers 90 days to reduce their stake in Vozrozhdenie down to 10 percent, from the approximately 80 percent they currently hold.

Earlier this month two sources told Reuters that Kerimov, whose family controls Russia's top gold producer Polyus PLZL.MM, had entered the race to buy Vozrozhdenie.

Kerimov is ranked by Forbes magazine as Russia’s 21st wealthiest businessman, with a net worth of $6.3 billion.

He is currently under investigation in France for tax evasion, but was granted permission by French authorities to travel to Russia in January.

The three-day business trip was aimed at finalizing the Vozrozhdenie deal, one source said. He is now back in France and denies the prosecutors’ allegations, Russian media have reported.

Bonum Capital, a company which two of the three sources said had done work for Kerimov on the deal, subsequently submitted a list of candidates to join the bank’s board, the lender and a Bonum Capital representative said last week. However, Bonum Capital said it hadn’t done any work on the transaction for Kerimov. It said it was acting on its own behalf and was not representing the interests of any third parties. Reuters could not independently confirm that assertion.

The bid was successful, three sources told Reuters. They did not know the terms of the deal. Representatives from Bonum Capital and representatives of the Ananyev brothers both declined to comment.

The terms may see no money change hands at all, two sources close to the bank’s leadership told Reuters, on account of the current owners’ existing obligations to structures owned by Kerimov.

Representatives of the Ananyev brothers did not reply to requests for comment on whether, after Vozrozhdenie’s sale, they would retain the 10 percent stake which they are permitted.

In securing the deal to buy Vozrozhdenie, Kerimov has outrun another major contender.

Russian pension fund Blagosostoyanie, owned by state railway operator Russian Railways, had previously offered the Ananyev brothers a deal which would see Vozrozhdenie merge with the pension fund's Absolut Bank ABSOL.UL.

The merger, which also would not have seen any money change hands, had been under discussion ever since the death of Vozrozhdenie founder Dmitry Orlov in 2015.

Russia's No.2 bank, the state-controlled VTB VTBR.MM, had also been floated as a contender. But the bank chose not to be involved as there was not enough time available for Vozrozhdenie's shares to be properly scrutinized, VTB chief Andrey Kostin said.

Reporting by Tatiana Voronova, Katya Golubkova and Polina Devitt; Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Toby Chopra