MOSCOW, Feb 9 (Reuters) – Russia’s finance ministry said on Thursday it expects state-owned lender Sberbank (SBER.MM) to pay dividends of at least 50% on its 2022 profits, a prospect that drove up Sberbank shares and the wider Moscow Exchange stock index.
“Yes, we expect (them). The standard approach, which is spelled out in Sberbank’s dividend policy, is no less than 50%. We will discuss this further,” the TASS news agency quoted Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Kolychev as saying.
Sberbank, in common with other major Russian companies, did not pay a 2021 dividend last year on the government’s orders.
The rouble-based MOEX index (.IMOEX) pared losses to climb 0.6% higher on the day, while Sberbank shares did the same, gaining around 1.6% by 1333 GMT and nearing a multi-month high.
TASS also quoted Kolychev as saying that Russia’s economy may perform better in 2023 than the official forecast of a 0.8% decline. The International Monetary Fund expects Russia’s economy to grow 0.3% this year.
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After a GDP contraction of around 2.5% last year as the West imposed restrictions to punish Moscow over its actions in Ukraine, the economic outlook for 2023 is brighter.
That said, Russia faces a labour market shortage and lower oil and gas revenues as price caps and embargoes take effect and the budget deficit widens.
Kolychev said the finance ministry did not believe the increased budget spending in 2022 would pose significant inflationary risks.
He added that Russia would reduce the share of euros in its National Wealth Fund (NWF) to zero in 2023, as part of an effort by Moscow to shift its substantial reserves from “unfriendly” currencies into more accessible ones.
Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Alexander Marrow
Editing by Gareth Jones and Barbara Lewis
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