Putin clears Rosbank’s purchase of Societe Generale’s Russian assets

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday signed a decree clearing the way for Rosbank to purchase stakes in leading Russian companies owned by Societe Generale.

The decree said that Rosbank will be able to buy SocGen’s stakes in energy producers such as Rosneft and Gazprom, metals companies including Norilsk Nickel and Severstal, and other leading Russian blue chip firms.

Societe Generale declined to comment. The bank had an exposure of 22.4 billion euros to Russia as of end-June 2021, according to the European Banking Authority’s (EBA) data.

Companies from so-called “unfriendly” countries – those that announced sanctions against Russia following the Kremlin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine in February 2022 – need special dispensation from Moscow for transactions involving Russian assets.

Interfax news agency said SocGen’s separate stakes in the Russian companies were relatively small, for example, 0.04% in Gazprom and 0.02% in Alrosa, the world’s biggest diamond-producing company.

However, the combined value of the assets under consideration are “billions of roubles”.

Societe Generale pulled out of Russia and closed the sale of its local unit Rosbank to the Interros group, a firm linked to Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin, in May 2022.

Putin has said that Western sanctions are a declaration of economic war on Russia.

Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Russian state assets have been frozen in the West, as well as assets of some Russian businessmen and investors. Germany last year took control of the then Russian-owned Schwedt oil refinery which supplies 90% of Berlin’s fuel.

At the same time, Russian entrepreneurs have gained control of major Western assets in Russia including Carlsberg’s eight breweries and Danone’s enterprises.

($1 = 92.1205 roubles)

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow additional reporting by Silvia Aloisi in Paris; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Kirsten Donovan)