Russia to give central bank more time to complete Otkritie sale

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s government has submitted a draft law to parliament that would extend the central bank’s right to sell bailed-out lender Otkritie to Russia’s no. 2 bank VTB without a tender for another year.

The bill, published on the State Duma’s online portal on Wednesday, would give the banks and the regulator until the end of 2023 to complete the deal without needing to hold a competitive tender or seek approval from Russia’s competition authorities.

Russia’s parliament set a deadline for the deal of the end of this year when it approved legislation in March to help it pass with minimum bureaucracy.

VTB declined to comment. The central bank and Otkritie did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Both VTB and Otkritie have been targeted by Western sanctions this year.

The central bank bailed out Otkritie, once Russia’s largest private lender, in 2017 as part of a years-long campaign to clean up Russia’s banking sector.

Following the bail-out and an asset review, the central bank had been looking to offload Otkritie, with Italy’s UniCredit rumoured as a suitor for the bank.

That possible tie-up fell apart just weeks before Moscow sent thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, and VTB later emerged as the frontrunner to take over Otkritie.

(Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Jake Cordell; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Jan Harvey)