On Tuesday, it became known that the government would buy back a controlling stake in Sberbank from the Central Bank - 50% plus one share. A bill on this deal has already been prepared. In March, he will be submitted to the State Duma. According to RBC, the head of the Duma committee on the financial market, Anatoly Aksakov, the bill can be considered expedited and adopted in the spring session.
How to eliminate a conflict of interest
The possibility of this transaction has been discussed for a long time. The fact is that the Central Bank in relation to Sberbank is simultaneously a shareholder (owner), regulator and supervisor. Experts assess this situation as a “certain conflict of interest.”
There was a proposal to transfer a controlling stake in Sberbank from the Central Bank to the government. However, central bank executives insisted on selling the stake on market conditions. Its value is calculated at the weighted average price of shares for the full six months prior to the date of the first transaction.
On Tuesday, February 11, the cost of a package of Sberbank, according to the proposed methodology, amounted to approximately 2,7 trillion. rubles. The government will take funds for this deal from the National Welfare Fund (NWF). This will be the first uncoupling of the state reserve capsule, collected according to the new budget rule from excess profits from the sale of oil and asset management of the Fund.
The process has started
In January, President Vladimir Putin, in his Address to the Federal Assembly, mentioned that in the second half of this year, the NWF would exceed the seven percent threshold of the country's GDP. Everything that will go beyond this, the government will be able to spend on infrastructure projects. It seems the process has started. The first such waste will be the purchase of shares in Sberbank. Buying from anyone specifically ...
We will look carefully at how the money will be taken for it. According to the Ministry of Finance, at the beginning of the year on the NWF accounts with the Bank of Russia there were liquid funds in the amount of 6,14 trillion. rubles. In the first quarter, they will add about 2,94 trillion. rubles (equivalent of currency purchased under the budget rule in 2019).
So the liquid means of the NWF will grow to 9,1 trillion. rubles. To paraphrase the well-known aphorist of the current era, “there is money - now hold on” ...
Of these, according to expert estimates, 1,2 trillion can be spent. This amount was determined to exceed seven percent of the projected GDP for 2020. Now it’s clear where part of these funds will go. Since the transaction on Sberbank will be implemented in several stages and will go beyond the calendar framework of the current year. Most likely, experts will now begin to argue. After all, the purchase of shares in Sberbank is still an investment project (such is not forbidden for the NWF either), but not infrastructure, as the government previously announced the first expenses of the Fund.
Let them argue ... As an asset of the NWF, it will increase in value. Not for nothing that right after the appearance of information about the sale of a controlling stake in Sberbank to the government, Sberbank shares in the stock market jumped 2%.
We must also remember that now the bank’s dividends for 2019 will go directly to the National Wealth Fund. What will they be, the question is still open. This will be decided by the annual meeting of shareholders based on the recommendations of the Supervisory Board. For reference: at the end of 2018, Sberbank paid dividends to shareholders in an amount exceeding 420 billion rubles.
Who claims the Fund
The real attention to the NWF appeared last summer, when it became clear that the threshold beyond which the Fund’s spending would begin would be reached next year. The Ministry of Finance then calculated that in 2020 it would be possible to take 1,8 trillion from the NWF. rubles, in 2021 - 4,2 trillion.
The calculated figures caused a little discussion among officials. There were proposals to raise the cutoff threshold for oil prices in the budget rule (it was $ 42 per barrel) so that the Fund would not fill up so quickly and funds would flow into the budget. Then they agreed not to change the rule. After all, the business is already waiting for the promised funds of the NWF.
Business, however, proved to be very soon. One of the first to send a letter to the government was Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller. He asked to finance two giant projects in the Baltic region of Ust-Luga - a gas processing and liquefaction complex and the country's largest gas-chemical complex.
There was also a proposal to invest the Fund in the construction of a nuclear power plant in Egypt. As part of this project, Russia pledged to provide an African country with a loan of as much as $ 28 billion for a period up to 2028. The Ministry of Finance considered that it was more convenient to use the means of the NWF for this. Uralkali also later requested funds from the Fund to Africa. She prepared a project for the construction of a nitrogen fertilizer plant in Angola and was looking for cheap resources for it.
The head of Vnesheconombank Igor Shuvalov lowered the applicants for the funds of the Fund to the sinful Russian land. He proposed to finance the improvement of Russian settlements, and to think about projects in Africa “later”. Shuvalov named projects on water purification, renewal of transport, construction of modern housing, improving the quality of services in fifty large cities.
But the proposal of Igor Shuvalov did not find unanimous support. Since at the moment the Fund’s investments, as announced, it is wiser to invest in projects that can return funds to the NWF with a profit and further increase its reserves. Indeed, what can be the profit from investments in Russian cities ...
For similar reasons, many other fundraisers were denied. The deal with the shares of Sberbank, it seems, compares favorably with their projects. She promises a further increase in the Fund’s funds and is directly related to the activities of Russians. Apparently, that's why it was made the starting point in a new direction of the government.