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French bank Societe Generale sells off all its Russia operations

French bank Societe Generale cuts Russia ties by selling all its operations in the country to billionaire oligarch

One of Europe’s biggest banks has cut ties with Russia by selling its operations in the country to an oligarch.

French lender Societe Generale was one of Europe’s most-exposed banks to Russia, and operated Rosbank in the country.

But it has sold that unit, and its Russian insurance operations, to Interros Capital, a company linked to Vladimir Potanin.

French lender Societe Generale has sold its Russian operations, to Interros Capital, a company linked to oligarch Vladimir Potanin

Financial details were not disclosed, but SocGen will take a £2.5billion hit.

Potanin, 61, is head of mining giant Norilsk Nickel and is one of Russia’s richest men. He has been sanctioned by Canada, but not by the UK, EU or US.

Johann Scholtz, an analyst at data firm Morningstar, said SocGen had ‘essentially given the business away for free’. 

And while investors were glad that the bank had abandoned Russia, with its share prices rallying by 5 per cent, others were more critical.

Jerome Legras, head of research at Axiom Alternative Investments, said: ‘It’s a bit distressing that ultimately this is an enormous gift to one of the wealthiest oligarchs.’

Other European banks with a significant presence in Russia include Italy’s Unicredit and Austria’s Raiffeisen. 

They are yet to find a way to get out of the country following Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine in February.

But a slew of Western firms have already announced plans to distance themselves. 

The UK’s Big Four auditors – Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and EY – have cut ties with their Russian partnerships, barring them from using the company names and accessing any resources.