Sberbank's Q3 Profit Rises 8% As Gref Plans Asian Expansion

Sberbank said Friday that profit rose 8.3 percent in the third quarter on higher lending revenue and announced plans to expand into China and India.

Net income at the state-owned bank increased to 21.9 billion rubles ($890 million) from 20.2 billion rubles one year earlier, Sberbank said in a statement, missing a 27 billion ruble median estimate of seven analysts.

Sberbank, the country's biggest bank, controls about half of Russia's retail deposits. The global credit crunch that has made foreign lending less accessible to Russian companies has allowed the bank to expand its corporate loan portfolio.

Net income was 3.3 percent higher than the second quarter, the bank said, and net interest income including loan-loss provisions rose 30 percent.

"The results are definitely disappointing but nothing dramatic," said Bob Kommers, analyst with UBS. "The difference with the forecast is largely due to trading income loss."

Speaking at the World Economic Forum, chief executive German Gref said Sberbank would begin talks this year on opening branches in China and India. Sberbank also wants to expand into Vietnam and through the former Soviet republics, Gref told reporters Friday.

"It is one of the tasks in our strategy," Gref said. "These markets are interesting, however the process of entering them is a lengthy one."

Sberbank's supervisory board will meet on Jan. 29 to discuss this year's development program and management changes, Gref said.

Anton Karamzin, a financial director at Morgan Stanley's Moscow office, will join Sberbank as its CFO, Vedomosti reported Friday, citing an unidentified banker. Denis Bugrov from McKinsey's Moscow office will become Sberbank's new strategist, Vedomosti said, citing another unidentified banker.