The state-run lender, run by Andrey Kostin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, has loaded up on assets including port terminals, a rail-freight operator and a trader this past year, according to filings and Bloomberg calculations based on VTB valuations.
The buying spree means that VTB handles a fifth of Russian grain exports, according to estimates by the Russian consultancy Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR).
The foray is allowing VTB to tap the whole supply chain in Russian grains and challenge top shippers like Trading House RIF and Cargill Inc. for the riches on offer in the industry. There’s much to be won — booming output in recent years has made Russia the world’s top wheat shipper, supplying nations as far away as Indonesia and Mexico. The country is eyeing new markets too.
“We are now allocating a great deal of resources for the development of this business,” said Atanas Djumaliev, head of global commodities at VTB Capital in Moscow. “We are building a full vertically-integrated supply chain from farmers to end consumers around the world, including Africa, the Middle East, Asia and so on.”
VTB, whose businesses span telecoms to real estate, plans to help Russia export more grains. Kostin, who has publicly defended Putin’s track record and is under U.S. sanctions, has had success with other investments. VTB bought a stake in Burger King’s Russian business in 2012, when the fast-food chain had just 38 locations in the country. Now, there are more than 600.