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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Alfa Bank to Sell 20% to Foreigner

The head of Alfa Bank said Friday it was ready to sell up a fifth of its shares to a foreign investor, but denied reports it was in talks with U.S. Citigroup over the stake.

"We are ready to sell 10 percent to 20 percent in Alfa Bank. ... We need foreign shareholders but so far we have not got a single proposal from Western investors," Alfa Bank president Pyotr Aven said at a business lunch.

"We have never held talks about it with Citigroup," Aven said, referring to local media speculation that Citigroup was a potential investor.

He did not name a deadline for the sale to go ahead.

Aven also said that the bank -- which intends to increase its assets to $5 billion over the next two to three years from $2.7 billion as of the end of 2001 -- was working to acquire small local banks in an effort to boost its regional presence. It did not name any of the banks.

There are around 1,300 banks in the country, but only about 10 percent of them have capital exceeding $10 million. Many smaller banking institutions are seeking a powerful partner to survive.

Alfa Bank intends to expand aggressively, adding 250 new outlets nationwide to its current network of 85 branches over the next 18 months, Aven said.

Alfa Bank is part of the privately owned Alfa Group, which controls the country's fourth-largest oil company, Tyumen Oil Co., and holds significant stakes in major mobile telephone operators.

The group also runs a range of retail and wholesale operations as well as an insurance business.