10 Mar 2023 12:14

Fridman and Aven plan to sell stake in Alfa Bank to Kosogov, valued at $2.3 bln - media

MOSCOW. March 10 (Interfax) - Entrepreneurs Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven plan to exit the capital of Alfa Bank by selling their stake to banking business partner Andrei Kosogov in order to achieve the lifting of Western sanctions; the credit institution is valued at 178 billion rubles, or $2.3 billion, the Financial Times reported, citing sources.

According to the sources, Kosogov will buy Alfa Bank from Cyprus-based ABH Financial Ltd, one of the beneficiaries of which is himself, along with Fridman and Aven. Alfa Bank's current ownership composition is not known. Russia's JSC AB Holding was the final link in the chain of the bank's ownership at the time of the latest disclosure of the corresponding information. The publication does not specify whether the composition will continue or whether Kosogov will own Alfa Bank shares directly as an individual.

The deal is scheduled to close this spring, but it must be approved by regulators, including the Central Bank of Russia and the tax authorities. Moreover, approval of the U.S. and EU sanctions authorities could be required. [Alfa Bank is included in the U.S. and European sanctions lists, while Fridman and Aven are under EU and UK sanctions.]

Friedman and Aven have declined to comment. Kosogov confirmed that the deal had been agreed, but declined to comment further.

The deal is "beautiful on paper", because it is being carried out between non-sanctioned individuals, one of the newspaper's sources said. "Friedman and Aven rid themselves of sanctions, Kosogov receives the bank, and the bank has one, single Russian shareholder," the source explained.

However, the FT sources warn that completion of the transaction could be complicated owing to difficulties in obtaining regulatory approval from several jurisdictions.

ABH Financial Ltd is controlled by Luxembourg-based ABH Holdings, whose co-owners as of March last year were Kosogov (41%), Fridman (32.9%), Aven (12.4%), UniCredit S.p.A. (9.9%) and the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research (3.9%). Kosogov became the largest co-owner of ABH Holdings last spring, having bought shares from Herman Khan and Alexei Kuzmichev. Alfa Bank had five minority shareholders following this, and the stake of each one is not a controlling share.

The FT said UniCredit declined to comment. Alfa-Bank and ABH Financial did not respond to requests for comment.

Alfa-Bank's press office told Interfax that a deal for Fridman and Aven to divest their stakes might not require the approval of foreign regulators.

Alfa Bank, one of the largest private banks in the Russian Federation, ranked fourth in terms of assets in the Interfax-100 ranking in 2021.