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Russian Stocks Climb Most in Week as VTB, Sberbank Lift Market

Russian shares rose for a second day as crude oil advanced and financial stocks gained.

The Micex Index added 0.6 percent to 1,434.18 by the close in Moscow, the most since March 20, paring its retreat this year to 2.7 percent. The dollar-denominated RTS Index increased 0.6 percent to 1,454.72. Consumer services and financial shares led gains, trading up at least 2 percent. OAO Magnit, Russia’s biggest food retailer by market value, surged 7.1 percent, the most on the Micex.

VTB Group, Russia’s second-largest lender, rose as much as 3.4 percent, after Kommersant reported its management will propose paying 15 percent of net income as dividends for 2012. OAO Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, gained as much as 2.1 percent after 2012 profit advanced 10 percent. The stock has the third-biggest weighting on the Micex at 14 percent. Its preferred shares rallied 3.7 percent, the most since Jan. 8.

“Sberbank posted great results today, its profit assured investors of a high dividend payout,” Mark Rubinstein, head of research at Metropol IFC, said by phone from Moscow. “The market is also celebrating the rumor of VTB’s plans for a dividend boost. This was unexpected.”

Crude oil climbed for a fifth day in New York, adding as much as 0.4 percent to $96.94 a barrel. Oil and gas contribute about 50 percent of Russia’s state revenue.

Gazprom Dividend

OAO Gazprom, which has the biggest weighting in the Micex at 15 percent, dropped as much as 3.1 percent to 131.98 rubles, the lowest level since April 2009. The state-run company said late yesterday that 2012 net income dropped 37 percent to 556 billion rubles (17.9 billion), based on local accounting standards.

That translates into a 5.9 ruble-a-share dividend given the company’s policy of returning 25 percent of net income to shareholders. Gazprom paid a record-high dividend of 8.97 rubles per share for 2011, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“The market is forecasting lower dividends based on Gazprom’s net income,” Alexander Burgansky, an analyst at Otkritie Capital, said by phone from Moscow. “Shares are falling as a reflection of lower dividend expectations.” Otkritie sees dividends dropping to 6.3 rubles a share, according to Burgansky.

Gazprom lost 2.2 percent to 133.21 rubles, the most since Feb. 14. The amount of shares traded was about 76 million, equivalent to about twice the three-month average.

Cyprus Banks

Cyprus’s banks opened their doors to customers today for the first time in almost two weeks, with new rules curbing access to cash. The Central Bank of Cyprus’s capital controls will include a 300-euro ($383) daily limit on withdrawals and restrictions on transfers to accounts outside the country.

Russian lenders and companies had about $31 billion in Cypriot banks by the end of 2012, according to a report earlier this month by Moody’s Investors Service, while another $29 billion has been given in loans to Cypriot firms with origins in Russia. The benchmark Micex Index last week recorded its steepest decline since May following a proposal to tax savings accounts to secure a 10-billion euro bailout from the euro area.

VTB rose 3.2 percent to 4.97 kopeks after tumbling 1.6 percent yesterday to the lowest level since September 2009. Sberbank added 2 percent to 98.64 rubles. The “largest” share of nonresident deposits in Cyprus comes from Russia, and VTB’s Cyprus-based subsidiary, Russian Commercial Bank, holds the biggest portion among Russian banks, Standard & Poor’s said in an e-mailed note dated March 26.

VTB’s balance sheet won’t be hurt by the Cyprus crisis, VTB’s First Deputy Chief Executive Officer Yuri Soloviev said in a Moscow interview. Some VTB clients may take money from their Cyprus accounts, he said.

Cheapest Stocks

Russian equities have the cheapest valuations among 21 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg. The Micex trades at 5.3 times estimated earnings. That compares with a multiple of 10.5 times for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which has slid 2.3 percent this year.

The Russian Depositary Index added 0.9 percent to 1,648.53. Depositary receipts of Magnit surged 7.4 percent.

The Market Vectors Russia ETF, the largest dedicated Russian exchange-traded fund, was little changed at $27.49 yesterday in New York. The RTS Volatility Index, which measures expected swings in the stock futures, rose 0.5 percent to 19.39 today. The Bloomberg-Russia gauge added 0.3 percent to 97.17 yesterday.

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