- High interest rates and overdue loans are the characteristics of all developing markets, and not only Serbia, so that such things did not have much effect on our decision to enter this country - said Deputy Chairman of the Sberbank Managing Board Sergey Gorkov.
Gorkov said at Sberbank's first press conference in Serbia that that Russian bank, which completed the takeover of Volksbank International (VBI) in March 2012, was carefully analyzing the situation in Serbia and that it would support the country's economy.
- We are not going to offer insanely low interest rates, but to act according to market principles. We are not coming to Serbia or other markets in southeast Europe to make a profit and then take it out of the country. Instead, we reinvest it and insist on the construction of long-term, mutually beneficial relationships - said Gorkov.
Entering eight countries in the region
As Gorkov stressed, the acquisition of Volksbank is very important for Sberbank because the Russian bank took over not only the Austrian bank, but also its affiliates in eight countries.
- We find our entry to the market of east Europe very significant because we believe it has great prospects. This is an excellent region and all the chances are that it will be growing constantly - said Gorkov.
As Gorkov told eKapija, Sberbank currently analyzes our market and already has a plan to introduce a number of new products and a new way of measuring the risk.
- Our high-precision analysis will be completed in July, and we will then be able to announce our concrete goals - Gorkov stated.
He pointed out that, in addition to the size of the market it covered, the application of new technologies, management and investment in staff were also extremely important for Sberbank because they would serve as the basis for the development of the banking sector in the future.
The biggest bank in Russia
Sberbank is the largest bank in Russia. Its assets account for about 27% of the total assets of the banking sector in that country. The founder and the biggest shareholder of that bank, which has about 240,000 employees, is the Bank of Russia, whereas its other shareholders are more than 245,000 juristic and physical persons.
When asked whether the state could be a good boss, given that Serbia's performance in that position had not been that good in the previous period, Gorkov said:
- The Bank of Russia holds a 57.5-percent stake in Sberbank. What lies ahead is a privatization procedure because the Russian central bank wants to sell 7.8% of shares. The Russian government manages a special project involving the privatization of Sberbank as well as several other Russian companies. We find the state ownership very important because we have the country behind us, but I think that the bank has to be privatized because of the entire economy. Probably not all at once, but step by step.
Sberbank has the largest network of affiliates on the territory of Russia, including 17 regional centers and over 19,000 branch offices, and it also has subsidiaries in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, a branch in India and offices in Germany and China.
Sberbank signed a sales agreement in early September 2011 with VBI's shareholders - Austria's Volksbank (Oesterreichische, VBAG), BPCE, DZ Bank and VGZ Bank. That transaction does not include VB Romania, a subsidiary of the VBI Group in Romania.
VBI operates in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Ukraine, and it also possesses a permit to operate in Austria.
According to the data from January 2012, Sberbank's profit accounts for 47% of the entire profit of the Russian banking sector. When it comes to placements, 33% are corporate loans, while retail loans account for 32%.