Russia should consider cutting Sberbank, VTB stakes: Economy Minister

Russia's authorities should return to the idea of further cutting the state's holdings in the two largest banks, Sberbank and VTB, Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev told an economic forum on Wednesday.

Sberbank declined to comment on the comments when contacted by CNBC. It pointed to an interview its CEO Herman Gref gave to Germany's Handelsblatt in November, in which he said privatization would "greatly improve" the bank's situation.

"Fifty percent minus one share of Sberbank shares are currently publicly traded. Another 25 percent could be traded on the market immediately. And the central bank would continue to hold 25 percent in a transitional period. In principle, there is no reason not to privatize Sberbank completely. It would greatly improve our situation," he said at the time.

A man walks past a branch of Sberbank Rossii on March 7, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine.
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A man walks past a branch of Sberbank Rossii on March 7, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine.

Ulyukayev also told the economic forum that there was a risk that low oil prices may remain for a prolonged period of time, possibly "for decades".

Russia can balance its budget at an oil price of $82 per barrel, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said later on Wednesday.

This year's budget is based on an oil price of $50 per barrel, but Brent, the global benchmark, was trading at just $31 on Wednesday.

"Our budget will be balanced when the price is $82 per barrel so there are still a lot of decisions to be made when it comes to budget policy," Siluanov said.

He said that last year's budget deficit was around 2.6 percent of gross domestic product.

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Reuters with