Sberbank's Chief Gets Support

Sberbank said Monday that its management has advised shareholders to reelect its chairman at the annual meeting, but also put on the agenda calls by some shareholders for him to retire early.

Minority shareholders have proposed ousting president and chairman Andrei Kazmin at the next meeting. Critics have accused him of authoritarian and excessively conservative management of the bank, which is controlled by the Central Bank.

"The supervisory council included on the agenda of the forthcoming annual shareholders meeting the question of electing the chairman and approved A.P. Kazmin as the only candidate for the position," the bank said in a statement.

It said the agenda would also include a proposal to empower shareholders to elect the chairman and president, a right currently enjoyed by the council.

The statement said a proposal on ousting Kazmin had also been included. "The question of an early end to the powers of the chairman of Russia's Sberbank, introduced by a small group of minority shareholders with about 3 percent of shares, is also a subject for consideration at the meeting, in accordance with current legislation," the statement said.

Vadim Kleiner, council member and head of research at Sberbank shareholder Hermitage Capital, said the council had recommended the meeting consider curbs to the chairman's powers as proposed by minority shareholders.

The proposals include changes to the bank's charter to enable the council to take all important decisions related to extending large credits and the bank's participation in other banks' capital.

Others would adopt a corporate management code and introduce an audit committee within the board.

Kleiner said the date of the annual meeting would be announced April 26 at the next meeting of the council.

The financial community is pinning hopes for speedy banking reform on new Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatyev.

The previous head, Viktor Gerashchenko, quit last month in part because of criticism over slow changes in the banking sector.