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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Watchdog Clears Sberbank

The government's financial markets regulator said Wednesday that an investigation had found no evidence that the share price of Sberbank had been manipulated during a major rights issue that has just closed.

Sberbank's shares fell sharply on Feb. 2 after a news report quoted sources familiar with the deal as saying its pricing should be based on a historical average to ensure support from investors.

The report triggered a 7 percent fall in Sberbank's share price. The bank's CEO, Andrei Kazmin, shortly afterward stated in a radio interview that the offering would be priced in line with, or at a premium, to market levels.

Oleg Vyugin, head of the Federal Service for Financial Markets, told a news briefing that its inquiries had found that no market participants had profited from the sudden movement in Sberbank's share price.

"According to information from the stock exchanges nobody made an excessive profit," Vyugin said. "We did not find that somebody first did a transaction and then, after the publication of the information, did another one."

The rights issue was ultimately priced Feb. 21 at 89,000 rubles ($3,422) per share, a modest discount to prevailing market levels. Kazmin was quoted Feb. 22 by Kommersant as saying the issue price had been based on a weighted average since Dec. 1.

Sberbank said Tuesday that the rights issue had raised a total of $8.8 billion, making the deal the second-largest equity fund raising by a Russian company.

Sberbank placed a total of 2.59 million shares out of the 3.5 million on offer, with the Central Bank -- its majority owner -- signing up for nearly 900,000. As a result, the Central Bank's voting stake in Sberbank was diluted to 60.2 percent.

Vyugin said market regulators had sought clarification from Sberbank, and received assurances that access to confidential information on the placement had been strictly regulated and no leaks were possible.

"We believed them," Vyugin said. "That is why we have decided to close this matter."