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Sberbank Chief Says Market Volatility May Expedite Share Sale

May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Market volatility may expedite the sale of shares of OAO Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, Chief Executive Officer German Gref told reporters in Washington today.

“If we expect that the world economy will be stable and there will be sustainable growth, then it makes sense to wait,” said Gref, who was in the U.S. meeting with companies and the Export-Import Bank. “If we see that volatility will continue and risks will only increase, then probably we shouldn’t wait.”

The state controls Russia’s two largest banks as well as OAO Gazprom, the nation’s natural-gas export monopoly, and OAO Rosneft, the biggest oil producer. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who swapped jobs with President Vladimir Putin on May 7 to become prime minister, has ordered the government to cut its stakes in lenders to less than 50 percent as part of a pledge to relinquish government control over companies.

While backing sales to boost competition, Putin said in a Jan. 30 Vedomosti article it would be “stupid to sell assets on the cheap, ignoring the situation on markets.”

There is no deadline for a Sberbank sale, said Gref, a former economy minister.

The president and government made a point that at the first opportunity a sale should proceed, he said. At the same time, he added, it would be a “great pity to sell Sberbank at (the) current level of prices. There should be a golden mean.”

Gref said that the way in which the privatization of state assets will be handled will become clearer once a new cabinet is formed.

“We need to answer the key question, ‘Is this privatization structural or fiscal?’” he said. “If this is structural, then, we need to go to the market bravely. After formation with the government, I think there will be clarity on this.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at

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