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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gazprom's Leader expresses interest in Kit Finance shares

18.09.2008 - [Neftegaz.RU] - Asset management firm Leader, part of the business empire of Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom, wants to buy as much as 100 percent in Russian brokerage Kit Finance, state-controlled Gazprombank said on Wednesday. "Asset management company Leader confirms it is in talks with Kit Finance shareholders to buy out up to 100 percent of the bank's shares and is ready to provide additional support to the bank. The talks on the share buy-out are at the stage of agreeing on technical details," Gazprombank said in a statement. Kit Finance, which had failed to meet some of its financial obligations to clients, said earlier on Wednesday it was in the final stages of talks to sell "a controlling stake" to Leader with the support of state-controlled banks Gazprombank and VTB. Leader, founded in 1993, manages Gazprom's pension fund. Gazprombank is a major shareholder in Leader. "Gazprombank jointly with asset management company Leader has held talks with shareholders and management of bank Kit Finance," Gasprombank said later in the statement. "As a result of these talks, Gazprombank declares it will provide Kit Finance with a sufficient amount of refinancing resources to enable the latter to meet its financial obligations to its clients." Kit's chief, Sergei Grechishkin, told Reuters on Tuesday that several large clients had been unable to meet their obligations and that with liquidity scarce, the brokerage had failed to meet some of its own obligations. Russia halted stock and bond trading on Wednesday amid the worst falls since the country's 1998 financial collapse and the Finance Ministry pledged a total of $60 billion of funds to help local banks. It was not clear when the bourses would reopen. Traders in Moscow had speculated that a Russian state-owned bank was likely to buy Kit as the Kremlin tried to calm spooked investors, who have seen more than $600 billion wiped off stock prices this year. Market analysts hailed Kit's deal with Leader. "This is great news. It's great they managed to resolve it all in such a short time," said Alfa Bank analyst Natalya Orlova. "This ... can support the stock market." Russian markets have had their steepest fall since the 1998 crisis on concerns a brokerages and local investors may fail to meet their obligations and are being forced to sell securities into a falling market.

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