At the third final reading the State Duma passed an array of laws that provide for the sale of the main stake in Sberbank to the Russian government. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) faction did not support its adoption.
The law ‘On the purchase of shares of Sberbank from the Central Bank of Russia by the Russian government’ provides for the sale of Sberbank’s ordinary shares at a weighted average price on market terms. As stated in the amendments, it was “determined upon the results of a bidding contest in the first agreement on sale of these shares in the period not exceeding 30 days prior to the date of the contract.”The related law ‘On the transfer of part of incomes received by the Central Bank of Russia from the sale of ordinary shares of Sberbank’ establishes the procedure for transferring of money received by the Central Bank from the sale of shares of Sberbank to the federal budget part.There are plans to purchase a 52.32% stake in Sberbank's ordinary shares corresponding to 50% plus one share in the registered capital. The shares will be purchased from the Russian National Wealth Fund on market terms. There are several reasons why the government and deputies should adopt the laws.Anatoly Aksakov, chairman of the State Duma committee on Financial Market (A Just Russia party,) explained that this issue had been brought up a countless number of times. The expert community keeps discussing the issue since the years of 2000-2009. The National Bank of the Council and a number of committees of the State Duma take it up regularly.Since the Central Bank is a member of Sberbank's board of directors, a conflict of interest occurs. In fact, it actually regulates and supervises itself. According to Aksakov, in November last year, the financial market committee discussed the transfer of Sberbank's dividends not to the Central Bank but to the budget of the Russian Federation. At that time, a possibility of the Central Bank’s transfer the stock of shares to the government was raised, too. In addition, the law is important because it ensures the implementation of a huge amount of social obligations which have already been included in the budget. However, the discussion of laws caused a sensation in the State Duma.At the beginning of the session, the CPRF proposed to postpone the consideration of the issue at all and to carry out an anti-corruption examination of the document. Initially, it was supposed that the Central Bank would receive 700 bln rubles ($9,101,820,000) from selling Sberbank's share. Pursuant to amendments this amount was changed to 300 bln rubles ($3,900,780,000) from the transaction plus up to 200 bln rubles ($2,600,520,000) of compensation for losses from selling the reorganized banks.As Vera Ganzya (the CPRF) explained, by this transaction the government is transferring oil and gas revenues from the Russian National Wealth Fund to oil and gas companies. “However, the price of this transfer is 500 bln rubles ($6,501,300,000),” said Ganzya. “At present, everyone is trying to chant the praises on it. I believe that as time passes, we might hear very precise wording about this action: the con of the century.”In turn, deputy Nikolai Kolomeitsev (the CPRF) saw the main threat in the fact that Sberbank is not really a Russian bank. According to him, the register of owners of Sberbank’s shareholders includes the Bank of Russia with the share of 50.0034% and non-resident legal entities with 45.64% share (40% belong to the U.S. and the rest to Britain and Switzerland.) In addition, private investors own 2.84% and resident legal entities – 1.52%.Andrey Makarov, the сhairman of the State Duma committee for the budget and taxes made an attempt to dispel worries. He drafted the amendments and, therefore, took offense at the comments on the bill’s inherent potential for corruption. According to Makarov, the changes he proposed rule out a situation where foreign speculators might take a chance at off-loading Sberbank shares. Next day, the shares are likely to rise again because it is a really outstanding asset. “Aksakov and I would be idiots if we didn’t take advantage of the situation on the market in order to reduce the price. We don’t deny a single word that we had said but we took advantage of the situation: it is 300 bln rubles instead of 700 bln,” explained Makarov. In addition, he said that it is mean to claim that the bank is transferred for further privatization. He urged his colleagues to respect voters.“Otherwise, it is beginning to feel like you want only one thing – to make everyone rush to Sberbank offices and withdraw deposits,” said Makarov. “There is no reason for it.”Experts also agree with his opinion. Deputy Mikhail Emelyanov (A Just Russia party) told wek.ru that he sees no con here. According to him, the money doesn't go anywhere. It belongs to the Russian government.Financial ombudsman Pavel Medvedev explained to wek.ru that now there is no question of privatizing of Sberbank. Chances are the privatization happen at the next stage. However, the question will be discussed very seriously. There will be no automatic privatization. According to Medvedev, for many years the Central Bank has been accused of being, on the one hand, a regulator of the entire banking system and, on the other hand, the owner of one of the largest banks. Certainly, an ungrounded suspicion occurs that it may be playing into the hands of its own bank. However, it will be better if there is no reason for suspicions of this kind.According to Medvedev, he sees no disadvantages of this decision. “Word is the government's money may go to the Central Bank,” Medvedev said. “The Central Bank will be well-fixed. However, the Central Bank will not get that money. According to the legislation, the Central Bank always transfers extra money to the state budget. It is true that last year was unprofitable for the Central Bank. This was accidental because the CB had to support so many bankrupt banks.”In his opinion, this year will be profitable. Moreover, extra unexpected money received for Sberbank, will entirely add to its profit. In fact, all the money from selling shares of Sberbank will be transferred to the budget.“I knew all the presidents of the Central Bank since December 1990,” Medvedev said. “I wrote the law on Central Bank with my own hand. There is a provision there according to which the Central Bank is independent. However, it coordinates its activities with the government.” According to him, certainly, the Central Bank cooperates with the Minister of Finance. At present, such an important financial institution as the Savings Bank does not perform any transactions that would be contrary to the actions of the Ministry of Finance. Therefore, according to Medvedev, when the Savings Bank becomes property of the government, everything will remain the same in this sense. In the light of it, Medvedev is confident that the purchase of Sberbank’s shares by the government will not change anything for people.