Sberbank Hires 2 Top Execs, Ups Dividend

Sberbank said Monday it would appoint two bankers from leading investment houses to its management board as the country's biggest bank undergoes a huge and complicated restructuring.

German Gref, who was appointed president of Sberbank last November, told reporters after a board meeting that Ilka Salonen, from Renaissance Group, was joining Sberbank to head up international business, while Alexander Bazarov, from Deutsche Bank, was being brought in to head up client relations.

Gref, the former Economic Development and Trade Minister who promised to "make this elephant dance" after taking up his new post at Sberbank, said the bank was in intensive talks with management consultants on the bank's future strategy. He said further details would be revealed in the fall.

As part of its global expansion, Gref has indicated that the bank plans to acquire banks at home and expand abroad, a strategy that was criticized Monday by Deputy Finance Minister Dmitry Pankin.

"Sberbank has a lot to do inside Russia, and if all activity of Sberbank will go abroad it would be ridiculous," Pankin told the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development annual meeting in Kiev, Reuters reported.

Sberbank also said it had recommended that shareholders vote to pay 11.67 billion rubles in dividends for 2007. Shareholders would receive 51 kopeks per common share, and 65 kopeks per preferred share, equivalent to 10 percent of the bank's 2007 net profit. Gref said the payout represented about a 30 percent increase on last year's dividend.