UPDATE 1-Russia’s finance ministry buys 50% stake in Sberbank from central bank

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MOSCOW, April 10 (Reuters) – Russia’s Finance Ministry said on Friday it had closed a deal to purchase a controlling stake in Sberbank, the country’s largest lender, from the central bank for 2.14 trillion roubles ($28.31 billion).

The deal’s completion comes two months after the ministry announced it would tap into the country’s National Wealth Fund (NWF), a cushion accumulated from oil revenues, to purchase the central bank’s 50%-plus-one-share stake in Sberbank.

The transaction, announced before global financial markets were hit by low oil prices and sell-offs related to coronavirus outbreaks worldwide, is seen ending years of debate about potential conflicts of interest arising from the central bank controlling the country’s largest lender.

The ministry said on Friday it paid 189.44 roubles per Sberbank share in a deal to acquire a 50% stake in the bank. The central bank said it would relinquish its remaining share in Sberbank no later than May 6.

Sberbank CEO German Gref, who in January said he was ready to resign if a shareholder change led to a change in the bank’s strategy, said on Friday that the lender would now focus its efforts on implementing its growth strategy.

Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina is scheduled to give a news briefing in Moscow at 1300 GMT. ($1 = 75.5926 roubles) (Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya, additional reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy, Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Katya Golubkova and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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