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Sberbank bets on e-commerce in expansion beyond banking

FILE PHOTO: St. Petersburg International Economic Forum

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's largest lender Sberbank expects its non-financial businesses to generate 60% of company revenues by 2030, with e-commerce at the heart of a new three-year strategy, unveiled by Chief Executive German Gref on Monday.

In a shift away from its core banking business, Sberbank wants to become one of Russia's top three e-commerce players by 2023 and is taking a majority stake in online platform SberMarket, a joint venture with internet group Mail.Ru, the company said.

Sberbank has invested some $2 billion on acquisitions and IT as it attempts to join Apple and Google on the big tech stage. It also has the Rambler media group and Okko online cinema among the other assets.

Over the next three years, revenue from Sberbank's non-banking businesses should reach at least 5% of group revenues, said Lev Khasis, first deputy chairman of the Sberbank's executive board, during the bank's online investor day.

"We will make substantial investments of around 4% of our capital to implement this strategy," he said. "And we will direct most of that on developing the e-commerce business."

Khasis said Sberbank's total investment in SberMarket now stands at 12 billion roubles ($156 million). He said Sberbank's growth in the sector would likely be organic and that partnerships were possible, but ruled out large mergers and acquisitions.

Russia's e-commerce market has boomed this year as coronavirus lockdowns forced consumers to switch to online shopping.

Despite the change in focus, the banking business will still account for approximately 70% of net operating income by 2023, based on forecasts presented by Gref.

The bank's return-on-equity, one of the key measures of profitability, is forecast at over 17% in 2020-2023.

Retail lending is set to grow by 10-12% a year and Sberbank's corporate portfolio is expected to expand by another 5-7% annually in 2020-2023, the presentation said.

Sberbank said it was also planning to channel 50% of net profit to dividends in the next three years.

($1 = 76.1660 roubles)

(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh, Alexander Marrow and Tatiana Voronova; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Jane Merriman)