The Swiss branch of Russia’s Sberbank has been sold to the Geneva-based m3 Groupe Holding company, freeing the bank from intensive supervision by Swiss financial regulator.
Sberbank Switzerland was not directly sanctioned by the European Union, but measures had been taken against some of its former directors. In March, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) had restricted the bank’s business, preventing it from paying out money to sanctioned individuals or entities.
The Zurich-based banking unit has now been bought for an undisclosed sum by m3 Groupe, which manages a portfolio of companies in the real estate, hospitality and financial sectors. It will now operate under the name TradeXBank, specialising in the financing of the commodities trade.
Abdallah Chatila, the Swiss-Lebanese chair of M3 Groupe, told Le Temps newspaper that the sale was coordinated with United States businessman Stephen Lynch, who takes a 10% stake in TradeXBank.
Sberbank Switzerland made a CHF25 million ($25.5 million) profit last year with revenues of around CHF3 billion to CHF4 billion, Chatila said. Non-sanctioned clients have withdrawn CHF1.5 billion in assets in recent weeks.
“This leaves us between CHF600 and 700 million, to which we must add equity in excess of CHF500 million, which is a good start,” Chatila said. “With our current size, we are already one of the 20 largest Swiss banks.”
He added that the bank’s current staff of around 65 will be retained.
FINMA confirmed that trading restrictions have been lifted following the ownership change.
The regulator said it is “closely overseeing the change of ownership in coordination with national and international bodies,” but has withdrawn the services of a previously appointed investigating agent.
TradeXBank chair Christian Lüscher told Le Temps that bankrolling the trade of oil, gas and other commodities could prove a profitable business venture in future.
“Trade finance is an essential aspect of the Swiss financial centre, which has somewhat disappeared in recent years – even more so because of international sanctions. If we can restore strong financing of raw materials in Switzerland, it will be good for the bank, the Swiss financial centre and, indirectly, for several other branches of the economy – not to mention the retention and creation of jobs.”
A seperate Russian bank, Gazprombank, is also rumoured to be ready to sell its Swiss banking branchExternal link.