Alfa Bank Owners in Spotlight
The ownership structure of Alfa Bank, Russia's
largest private bank and one of its most secretive, was revealed
on Thursday in a memorandum leaked to two newspapers.
Mikhail Fridman and his business partners German
Khan and Alexei Kuzmichyov control a majority 77 percent in
the bank, said a memorandum accompanying the bank's issue of
The document presents the clearest breakdown
of Alfa Bank's shareholder structure to date. Analysts, however,
said it hid as much as it revealed, and rating agencies said
it was unlikely they would move to upgrade the bank.
The three partners control a 77 percent stake
in the Virgin Islands-registered ABH Holding, which holds 99.7
percent in Alfa Bank through the chain of 100 percent subsidiaries
ABH Financial Limited and Moscow-based OAO AB Holding, the memorandum
said, Kommersant and Vedomosti reported.
The memorandum did not reveal the distribution
of shares among the three partners, saying only that in voting
on Alfa Bank issues, Fridman, Khan and Kuzmichyov must act "as
if they were one shareholder." It was also not clear who
owned the remainder of the bank, which is Russia's fourth-largest
in terms of assets.
"This does not tell us much more than
we already knew," said Richard Hainsworth, head of Rusrating,
an independent rating agency. "And where does Peter Aven
come in? He used to talk as if he was a share owner."
"People knew who the beneficial owners
were before, even if not the exact percentages," said Andrew
Keeley, banking analyst with Renaissance Capital.
ABH Holding and, in turn, Alfa Bank, are part
of Alfa Group, an overarching holding that among other assets
also controls 25 percent of oil major TNK-BP, 29.9 percent of
alternative telephony provider Golden Telecom, 24.5 percent
of mobile operator VimpelCom and 25.1 percent in mobile operator
MegaFon, Vedomosti reported.
Fridman, Khan and Kuzmichyov are also known
to be shareholders in Alfa Group. Fridman told The Wall Street
Journal in an interview this October that he held the biggest
single stake in Alfa Group, over 40 percent, and named Khan
as another main shareholder.
Kuzmichyov -- the chair of the board of Alfa
Group's affiliated structure Alfa Echo -- was revealed as a
third major shareholder in Alfa Group by a source within the
company, Vedomosti reported.
The revelations come just a month after rating
agency Standard & Poor's listed Alfa Bank 28th among the
country's major banks in terms of transparency.
The bank was reportedly pressed by the Central
Bank to improve transparency as part of the banking deposit
insurance reform, with analysts saying this might have been
the main reason for Alfa's greater honesty in the memorandum.
It is too early to talk of transparency at
Alfa Bank, Hainsworth said. "It will only be transparent
when the whole Alfa Group is understood. Transparency is about
understanding how things interact and how things work [within
the corporate structure]," he said.
"It's not the shareholder of the bank
that's worrying, it's the amount of money that is kept offshore.
Who knows where the actual cashbag is when things go wrong?"
said another banking source who did business with Alfa.
"The enforceability of legal proceedings
in more distant courts is questionable," the banker said.