VTB Plans to Exit Grain Business in a Few Years after Expansion: CEO

Russia’s state-controlled VTB Bank, which recently shook Russia’s grain export industry by swiftly expanding in commodities, will exit the sector in a few years, once it has built up the assets, the lender’s CEO Andrey Kostin told Reuters.

VTB took on the task of creating a “national grains champion” in recent months, buying a local grain trader in August and becoming the largest operator of Russia’s grain export terminals and other infrastructure this year. The bank is now a major player in the country’s grain market.

Kostin also said that VTB plans to start trading wheat via its Swiss operation and that it is in the final stage of talks to purchase half of the Taman grain terminal on the Black Sea.

VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, is now a major physical grain exporter.

“Oil is going to run out one day but not a grain,” Kostin said in the interview, conducted last week and authorized for publication on Tuesday. “With that in prospect over the next few years, while the business is being built, we will still act as a player in the grain market.”

In June, the state-controlled bank asked President Vladimir Putin to help it create a Russian grain champion which would curb the role of foreign traders and give the state greater control over exports. However, Kostin said that once the business has been built up, VTB plans to hand it over.

“We have not finished the expansion yet. We do not rule out building new grain terminals in the Black Sea,” Kostin told the news agency.

“After we consolidate and wrap up this business, we will exit these assets,” he said. He did not elaborate on the options to leave the business or potential future owners.

In its letter to Putin, VTB said it would need another two to three years to consolidate and acquire more grain assets.