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  Business

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001. Page 5

Avtobank Aims to Boost Retail Business

By Torrey Clark
Staff Writer


Vladimir Ryskin, tapped as Avtobank's new head, said Tuesday the bank would forge ahead with its retail business as well as attract lucrative corporate clients.

At a briefing Tuesday, Ryskin addressed rumors arising after the recent acquisition of the top-10 retail bank by Millhouse Capital -- the management company set up by Sibneft shareholders -- SibAl and oil company Nafta-Moskva last month.

The group also purchased a controlling stake in top-10 insurance company Ingosstrakh, related bank Ingosstrakh-Soyuz and bankrupt metals company Nosta.

Ryskin, a banker formerly with Interros, will replace Natalya Rayevskaya, who had headed the bank for 10 years, after his candidacy is approved by the Central Bank and Avtobank's board of directors.

Rayevskaya said she would leave the banking business and her post as chairman of the board at Ingosstrakh.

Ryskin praised Avtobank's financial health and said he had no fears regarding the millions of dollars in loans owed to the bank by Nosta and carmaker GAZ, now under Millhouse management, or ongoing negotiations with foreign creditors.

"We are continuing on our course toward market leadership," Ryskin said. "[Avtobank] has a large, developed network, it is in strong operating form. ... It has an excellent ability to make payments."

The bank plans to develop its range of retail products and may set up investment funds to manage corporate bonds and other debt instruments, Ryskin said.

"Not everyone likes deposits. ... We should provide products that help the population reach a higher level and invest in the economy," he said.

Ryskin also plans to turn his gaze to lucrative commercial clients.

"To service large clients well, a retail bank needs nothing new. ... It only needs to find such clients," he said. "We need to attract clients, whether or not the clients are our shareholders."

The bank's new owners, however, may not make a quick shift to the bank.

"The companies -- primarily export earners -- probably won't route their primary cash flows through Avtobank, preferring to work with foreign banks," a source close to Millhouse said. The companies would, however, probably move part of their domestic payments through the bank, he said.

"My task is to run the bank, not to package it [for resale]," Ryskin said. Analysts, however, expect Millhouse, SibAl and Nafta-Moskva to sell out.

"Competition in the retail market will be very stiff, especially with foreign banks. It would be rather strange if [Millhouse, SibAl and Nafta-Moskva] remained in this business because retail banking is a sensitive business and could require additional expenditures," said Mikhail Matovnikov, deputy director general of Interfax Rating Agency.

"It would be logical if they developed the bank for resale, in particular, to foreigners."

A source close to Millhouse said there are no plans to sell the bank, although the group may do so if it becomes profitable.

"Any decision will have to be made on the basis of a three-way management consensus -- that is Millhouse Capital, SibAl and Nafta-Moskva," he said.

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