Thursday, 3 July 2008

Russian billionaire behind wealth management deal

Wealth Bulletin

27 June 2008 - By Jason Corcoran

Russian billionaire George Piskov and his partners have sold a 80% stake in Uniastrum Bank for $576mn (€371m) to the Bank of Cyprus.

Piskov (pictured below), an aviation engineer- turned businessmen, set up the Uniastrum in 1994 with two friends Uniastrum president Gagik Zakaryan and Oleg Belousov.

The fast growing bank, which now 220 branches across Russia, has focused on retail banking to Russia SMEs and the money transfers business. It has also branched out into the international wealth management business and set up Uniastrum Capital in London in 2001.

The owners decided to split its money transfer business Unistream off after the volumes jumped from $260m in 2004 to $750m in 2005. It was sold to Aurora Russia, a private equity firm, last year

The bank made the headlines in January 2006 when it announced the appointment of the UK's former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont as chairman of its supervisory board.

It previously flirted with the idea of floating 25% of its shares in a dual listing in London and Moscow before opting for the strategic investor route.

Bank of Cyprus said the deal represents an attractive acquisition multiple of 3.1 times the bank's price to book value, taking into account a $50m capital raising after closing

The remaining 20% stake will remain in the hands of Uniastrum's two primary stakeholders Piskov and Zakaryan with a three-year buyout option.

Piskov and Zakaryan will carry on as chairman and president of the bank.

A research note from Renaissance Capital said: "We view the deal as supportive for Russian banking stock, since it shows an ongoing healthy demand from international banks for assets in the space and that attractive multiples are still being paid."

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