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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Slovenes Buy Stake in Promsvyazbank

Slovenia's largest bank, Nova Ljubljanska Banka, has bought a 7.7 percent stake in the privately owned Russian bank Promsvyazbank in a move to expand its business in Russia, newspapers reported Tuesday.

"We think the Russian banking sector offers very good growth prospects," said Marija Petek, a spokeswoman for the Slovenian bank, part of NLB Group, Slovenia's largest banking and financial services company.

The banks, which have already been business partners for several years, declined to say how much had been paid for the 7.7 percent stake.

Having put its toe into the Russian banking market, the Slovenian bank will now consider increasing its share in Promsvyazbank to a controlling stake, newspaper reports said.

Established in 1995, Promsvyazbank is owned by two brothers, Alexei and Dmitry Ananyev, a bank spokeswoman said. It is Russia's 15th-largest bank, with net assets of 62.2 billion rubles ($2.2 billion) as of April 1, according to the Interfax Center for Economic Analysis.

Promsvyazbank said the deal would help improve its international credibility. "There is no doubt that this will help upgrade our image and strengthen our reputation," said Artyom Konstandian, director of the international business department at Promsvyazbank.

The Russian brokerage Troika Dialog praised NLB's strategy.

"It makes sense to get [into the market] through someone you already know," said Sergei Donskoi, a banking analyst at Troika Dialog. It is a sure way to guard against "skeletons in the closet," he said.

Donskoi put a price tag of $25 million on the stake.

The deal comes at a time of growing interest in buying into Russian banks, with acquisition opportunities elsewhere increasingly limited.

NLB is following in the footsteps of Italy's Banca Intesa, which purchased a stake of 75 percent minus one share in Russia's KMB-Bank for $90 million in April.

Germany's Deutsche Bank could be next to enter the Russian market, as media say it is interested in purchasing a controlling stake in the privately owned Impexbank.