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Russia's Sberbank to set up macroeconomics think tank - Gref

DAVOS, January 25 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian state-run bank, Sberbank, will set up a macroeconomic research institute to help forecast future economic problems, a former economics minister and the CEO of Russia's largest bank said Friday.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos, German Gref said: "Sberbank will establish its own institute and will try to predict such economic situations to ensure its interests and those of its partners."

Gref said the think tank would also work for the government.

Commenting on whether the Russian economy would see a recession if global financial problems are aggravated, Gref said, "I do not think that Russian economic growth will slump, only the pace of growth could slow down."

The official said Russia remained attractive for investment, echoing Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin who described Russia's economy as a 'haven of stability' amid slumping world markets earlier this week.

On Thursday, Gref said Sberbank would be able to support the liquidity of the country's banking system.

The businessman also said his bank was planning to enter the markets of former Soviet republics, and overseas markets such as Vietnam, India and China, admitting that it would take longer to enter the latter three countries.

"I think we will launch negotiations with these countries' governments this year and will be able to assess timeframes for entering the markets," Gref said.

Gref, Russia's economics minister for the past seven years, replaced Sberbank's former head Andrei Kazmin, now head of Russia's postal service, in late November 2007.

Sberbank said on its website on Friday that it had taken a syndicated loan of $750 million from a consortium of foreign banks late in December.

According to unaudited data, Sberbank's net profit calculated to International Financial Reporting Standards stood at around 70 billion rubles ($2.8 billion) in the first nine months of 2007.

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