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Russia's Sberbank posts 10% drop in 2020 net profit

By AFP - Mar 04,2021 - Last updated at Mar 04,2021

This file photo taken on September 25, 2020 shows the new logo of Russian bank Sberbank (reading "Sber") on its headquarters in Moscow (AFP photo)

MOSCOW — Russia's giant state-owned bank Sberbank said on Thursday it recorded a 10 per cent drop in net profit last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

But it was spared additional damage, thanks to Russia not re-introducing a nationwide lockdown when it was struck by a second wave of infections.

After a difficult start to 2020, Sberbank rebounded in the second half to generate a net profit of 760.3 billion rubles (8.5 billion euros, $10.3 billion). 

Sberbank Chief Herman Gref attributed the rebound to the absence of a further lockdown, saying the bank "managed to quickly restore business once restrictions were lifted".

Overall loans grew by 15 per cent as small- and medium-sized businesses, plus individuals borrowed more money to cope with the economic fallout from the health crisis.

Working "with the government and businesses, we became an important player in the collective fight against the consequences of the pandemic," Gref said.

He said Sberbank had "started offering support to individuals and businesses from the beginning of the turmoil."

Sberbank has nearly 100 million customers, mostly in Russia but also in several former Soviet and eastern European countries.

Last year, the group embarked on a major transformation, rebranding itself as a tech company.

It changed its logo and brand, renaming itself as Sber, and presented a range of new products including a virtual voice assistant and an audio-streaming service. 

Gref said the group aims to create an "integrated ecosystem around the client" by 2023.

Last year was also marked by the divorce after 10 years with partner Yandex, ending a joint project with the tech giant to develop a so-called Russian Amazon.

The break-up was accompanied by Sberbank acquiring a major stake in Mail.ru, Yandex's main competitor.

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