VTB to Hunt for Grain Business Investors Next Month, Deputy CEO Says

The first deputy CEO of Russia’s VTB Group told Interfax news agency on Thursday that they plan to attract one or more investors for the group’s grain business in February.

The state-controlled banking and financial services giant expanded dramatically in Russia’s grain export business last year, becoming the largest operator of infrastructure and a major grain trader. It has said it planned to expand its grain business further and then exit.

“It (the partner) will appear in February, maybe even more than one,” VTB’s Yuri Soloviev said, according to Interfax. 

The investors are likely to be Russian partners, he said, adding that the size of the stake for sale is being discussed, but VTB would retain a controlling stake.

VTB, Russia’s second-largest lender, previously said it could sell a stake in its grain business in December, but no deal has been announced. It also said previously it could team up with a global trader.

VTB is consolidating its grain assets in Demetra (Demeter) Holding, which it owns via affiliates. Its assets include stakes in grain terminals in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, in local grain trader Miro and in Russia’s largest grain rail-wagon owner Rustranscom (RTC).

Soloviev said VTB’s stake in the holding could in theory drop below 75% after the sale but the aim of the bank is to “keep the management of the integrated chain” for itself.

“We are going to maintain control because we believe that we need to finish the job, develop operational management, move the company forward. However, we are a bank and we have to take risks into account, so we always need experienced and professional partners. We are looking for them, and we plan to further develop this business with them,” Soloviev said.