Talk of Kerimov Interest Boosted European Banks

A report that Suleiman Kerimov is interested in buying stakes in major European banks and wants other tycoons to join him lifted shares briefly in several major European banks Wednesday.

Kommersant said Kerimov had been selling his Russian assets, including stakes in Sberbank and Gazprom, to buy shares in Deutsche, UBS, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse.

Shares in Deutsche and UBS rose by 2 percent but later fell back along with other financial stocks. Deutsche closed 1.3 percent down, UBS fell 3.8 percent and Credit Suisse 0.6 percent. The DJ Stoxx bank index weakened 2.8 percent.

A source in a major investment bank told Kommersant that Kerimov, the country's eighth-richest person and a member of the Federation Council, owned 3 percent of Deutsche at the end of last year.

"Kerimov now continues to increase his stake in Deutsche Bank and plans to take it to 9 percent," a source familiar with Kerimov's plans said. Other sources said Kerimov's holdings in other banks amounted to around 1 percent.

Deutsche Bank said it was aware of only two shareholders with stakes of more than 3 percent, British bank Barclays and French insurer AXA. The spokesman declined further comment on the report.

One news report quoted an official close to Kerimov's investment vehicle, Nafta Moskva, denying the Kommersant report and saying Kerimov had no plans to own 9 percent of Deutsche Bank, and nor had he sold Gazprom and Sberbank shares.

A senior executive at Nafta Moskva dismissed this report, however, and said the firm would not comment. Another person close to Nafta said Kerimov was a passive shareholder in Nafta.