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Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. Page 5

FT's Magazine Says Gazprombank N1

By Torrey Clark
Staff Writer


Gazprombank was named Russia's best bank for 2001 by the London-based Financial Times' magazine The Banker

Gazprombank was named Russia's best bank for 2001 by the London-based Financial Times' magazine The Banker, which hit the stands last week. But local analysts scoffed at the distinction.

The monthly journal praised Gazprombank for having a "financially sound, diversified customer base" in the gas, chemical and engineering industries and for its "highly sophisticated technology ... which uses high-speed satellite communications across 60 regions of Russia."

The pocket bank of Gazprom has rocketed to third place among Russia's largest banks as the gas giant has concentrated its financial activities. As of July 1, the bank had assets of $3.2 billion and capital of $570 million, according to Interfax Rating Agency.

Gazprombank recently underwent a management shakeup when Gazprom, which owns 80 percent, voted to oust CEO Viktor Tarasov in favor of Former Deputy Finance Minister Yury Lvov.

The magazine nominated banks for further scrutiny according to broad performance criteria, said Stephen Timewell, editor of The Banker, by telephone from London on Monday. "The awards are based not only on performance, but technical innovations, strategy, vision and overall achievements [such as acquisitions]." Judges also reviewed self-assessments by the nominee banks.

"There has been a change in banking in Russia after the [1998] crisis. The leading Russian banks today are making efforts to adjust to international standards," Timewell said.

MDM-Bank nipped at Gazprombank's heels for the magazine's top honor. Other banks that reached the final selection round included Alfa, International Industrial Bank, Vneshtorgbank, Sberbank, Vneshekonombank, BIN Bank, Promsvyazbank andКPetrokommerzbank, Timewell said.

Analysts were less impressed by the award, and such awards in general.

"Best bank in Russia is a relative term," said Kim Iskyan, banking analyst at Renaissance Capital. "If you look at the top 30 banks, you could make an argument for all of them if you really wanted to," he added.

"I would not advise looking at such publications to assess our banks [because they] have awarded titles and Фbank of the year' to banks that were already insolvent. You could say there isn't a single major insolvent bank that has never won anything: Inkombank, Uneximbank, Menatep, SBS-Agro. It's not an award, it is more PR," said Mikhail Matovnikov, deputy chief of Interfax Rating Agency.

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