Sberbank pushes the Sber rebranding, promises to double online ecosystem investments over the next three years

Sberbank pushes the Sber rebranding, promises to double online ecosystem investments over the next three years
Russia's biggest bank has dropped the word "bank" from its name and promises to double investment in the next years to $4bn on more acquisitions and investments
By Ben Aris in Berlin April 28, 2021

Russia’s leading retail bank has rebranded itself to just “Sber,” dropping the word “bank” from its name, but the change has not really caught on. The management is now ramping up its rebranding drive and has promised to double investment into building its new “bank plus everything else” online ecosystem in the next three years.  

Sber First Deputy CEO Lev Khasis spoke to journalists April 27, as part of an event devoted to the rebranding of SBER’s recently acquired marketplace as SberMegaMarket, and went into some details of the bank’s plans.  

The tie-up with was seen as an important addition to Sber’s digital ecosystem after it signed a memorandum of intent on the joint development of the marketplace, which is controlled by major electronics retailer M.Video-Eldorado.

Sber also tried to tie up with Yandex, Europe’s biggest and most valuable online company, but that deal also ended in divorce in June last year.  

And Sber is not the only one having problems building alliances. Sber is starting as a bank and is trying to add services. Yandex is coming from the other end of the spectrum: it provides services and needs a banking arm.  

Yandex's shares soared after it announced that it was buying Russia’s only pure online bank Tinkoff for $5.5bn. However, the deal collapsed after Oleg Tinkov said the deal was actually a “merger.” The two sides could not reconcile their differences and the deal quickly fell apart.  

Sber's investments into its non-banking ecosystem projects are anticipated to rise from RUB150bn ($2bn) at YE20 to RUB300-350bn ($4bn-$4.7bn) by YE23, or from c.3% to c.6-7% of total equity, according to Khasis.  

A big part of creating the SberMegaMarket that is supposed to cater to all the needs and wants of the consumer will be linked with Sber’s existing grocery delivery business SberMarket in particular, as well as being integrated with SberLogistics.

In turn, SberMarket is expected to become the undisputed leader in the Russian grocery delivery market this year, in what is an increasingly competitive business and currently led by X5 Retail Group. Almost all of Russia’s leading supermarket chains have ambitious plans to put their businesses online and new entrants into retail and e-groceries – the fastest growing section of Russia’s flourishing e-commerce sector – that are focusing on hard discounts make the sub-sector even more competitive.  

Sber and leading online business have agreed on a “mutually acceptable” configuration for their O2O partnership, Khasis said, acknowledging, though, that Sber and continue to compete in some segments.

Sber has been trying to form alliances with most of Russia’s top online businesses, but the partnerships keep breaking down, reportedly because of Sber’s large ambitions and its insistence of becoming the dominant partner.  

In the latest such effort, the proposed tie-up between Sber and ended in divorce after the two majors announced they would break up their $1.6bn O2O joint venture in foodtech and transportation.  

It seems that Sber is adding a new business every week and one of its big advantages over other players in the market is its country-wide branch network that stretches down in every town in the country, which it can leverage as both sales and delivery points.  

Khasis announced that in Sber’s latest initiative it will pilot the placement of physical pharmacies from its recently acquired e-pharmacy business Sber Eapteka in Sberbank branches across the country.  

“While Sber plans to more than double its non-banking ecosystem investments, we think the fundamental ambitions behind these plans are unlikely to surprise the market. We therefore do not see their discussion as having a material impact on Sber's share price,” Sova Capital said in a note.