MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian businessman Boris Mints wants to sell the country’s third-largest pension fund, Budushchee, after two banks in its portfolio were bailed out, potentially triggering up to $370 million in losses, five people familiar with the matter said.
Under pressure from financial and economic sanctions imposed by the West over the annexation of Crimea and support for rebels in eastern Ukraine, Russia shut more than 50 banks and rescued three major lenders in 2017 alone, sending ripples across the country’s financial system.
The Budushchee pension fund, which manages the savings of more than 4.5 million people worth 300 billion roubles ($5.25 billion), had stakes in two of the rescued lenders - Otkritie Bank and Promsvyazbank (PSB).
Mints, one of Russia’s wealthiest businessmen, controls the Budushchee financial group of which the private pension fund is a part.
Official representatives of Mints did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for a comment on the efforts to sell. But the sources said he was under increasing pressure.
“They’re are looking for a buyer, that’s for sure,” said a source close to the Budushchee financial group. A source close to the pension fund also confirmed the plans.
Several potential buyers have held talks with senior executives at Budushchee, said a third source, who is close to Mints. They include Gazfond-PN pension fund, Credit Bank of Moscow (CBOM.MM) and state bank Sberbank (SBER.MM), the source said.
Sberbank said in an emailed comment that “currently no such deal is being planned.” A source close to the bank said it was approached by the Mints team on a possible purchase but decided against the deal.
A co-owner of Credit Bank of Moscow, Roman Avdeev, declined to comment. Gazfond-PN did not reply to a request for comment.
Budushchee wrote off its 4 percent stake in Otkritie after the central bank took over the lender last year. Budushchee has said in the past that it could lose around 12 billion roubles if the stake was written off.
In the case of PSB, Budushchee sold its 10 percent stake in the lender in December a day before the central bank announced it was bailing it out.
The sale triggered a lawsuit against Budushchee by the new management of PSB, appointed by the central bank as part of the rescue. PSB is seeking to reverse the deal and seeks damages of 8.3 billion roubles.
The claim would bring current and potential losses for Budushchee from the two bailouts to more than 20 billion roubles, or some $366 million.
“The external pressure is forcing (Mints) to look for someone who will take over (the fund) for some money,” said the source close to Mints.
The fund has informed the central bank about a possible ownership change, said a banker who learned about it from the central bank.
The central bank declined to comment, saying that it does not comment on the activities of pension funds or on specific deals.
Mints, 59, was chairman of the board at Otkritie Bank between 2004 and 2013 and later launched a pension vehicle, buying and merging smaller pensions funds that took in the savings of postal workers, steelmakers and railroad workers.
The sources gave no details on the possible price tag for Budushchee, which means “the future” in Russian.
Sergei Okolesnov, director general at consultancy firm Pension Partner, said the two most recent deals involving the purchase of private pension funds, Raiffeisen and Uralsib, valued them at 20 percent of the amount of assets held.
However, stricter regulatory requirements on the type of assets the funds can invest in as well as declining market yields could weigh on the price of future deals, he said.
($1 = 57.1155 roubles)
Additional reporting by Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Silvia Aloisi and Sonya Hepinstall