TBILISI, DFWatch–President Mikheil Saakashvili is concerned that Russian banks lately have bought two Georgian banks and plan to make more deals with other banks in Georgia.
The Georgian banks in question deny the content of what the president said. Also the banks in Russia denied it, after which Saakashvili apologized for making an untrue statement.
Tuesday evening, the Georgian president held a meeting with TV reporters and said that Russian financial institutions recently started purchasing Georgian banks, and that he fears that if the trend continues, a large part of Georgian property may end up being the property of Russia.
He said Liberty Bank, one of the largest banks in Georgia, was purchased by SberBank of Russia, while the Russian Alpha Bank currently purchased TBC Bank in Georgia. Further, that Cartu Bank, which is affiliated with Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, ‘is already a Russian Bank’, and finally that Gazprom Bank, a large Russian state bank, plans to purchase a few Georgian banks.
Lado Gurgenidze, Director of Liberty Bank and a supporter of Saakashvili’s party, the United National Movement (UNM), the same day denied what the president had said and the said Liberty Bank is not in negotiations with any Russian bank.
TBC Bank was next to issue an official statement denying that Alpha Bank or any other bank plans to buy the bank.
Wednesday morning, the Russian banks Sberbank and Alpha Bank also denied what Saakashvili had said about purchasing Georgian banks. \
The National Bank of Georgia on Wednesday issued a short statement that they do not have any information about a possible sale of Liberty Bank and TBC Bank.
On Wednesday, before leaving for Azerbaijan, the president told journalists he was sorry that he reported incorrect information about banks.
“Fortunately, the information which I had wasn’t confirmed, and I am really sorry if I said anything incorrect,” he said, but added that he ‘truly knows’ that Russian banks have an interest in purchasing Georgian banks.
“I really know that one of the banks which I named is in negotiations about merging with one of the large Russian banks. This is true, and probably they denied it, but if I named the banks incorrectly, I didn’t mean to, I didn’t mean to create problems for the banks,” he said.
Saakashvili added that he wants the Georgian bank sector to be strong and independent.