VEDOMOSTI. Uniastrum Bank's entities may buy a stake in Orient Express Bank, three persons close to both sides to the transaction told business daily Vedomosti. The paper's interviewee noted that on Tuesday the banks may announce that Uniastrum Bank would get an interest in Orient Express Bank's charter capital after an additional share issue, but another source said that the deal has not yet wrapped up and at issue is the purchase of a stake "below controlling".

In early May investment funds managed by Baring Vostok intended to inject Rub 3 bln into the bank's capital via an additional share issue, and at that time oeb management board chairman Alexey Kordichev claimed that new investors could also buy the additional shares. He did not disclose names of the investors.

The funds under management of Baring Vostok hold 63.7% of Orient Express Bank shares via Cyprus-based Evison Holdings Limited. Uniastrum Bank will be buying the additional shares fifty-fifty with the majority shareholder, a Vedomosti source specified.

Baring Vostok has actively sought the buyer for a stake in Orient Express Bank since last summer. Companies that showed interest in the bank's shares included Bank Russian Standard owner Rustam Tariko, Asian-Pacific Bank shareholders, Sovcombank and Czech-Slovakian consortium J&T, Vedomosti's sources said. It became clear in April 2016 that it will not be possible to find the buyer for the entire stake within a short period of time and that Baring's funds would have to raise the bank's capital. The negotiations lingered due to the Bank of Russia's upcoming inspection, and also actions taken by minority shareholders that approved not all of the investors.

The bank is one of the leading banks in terms of troubled loans among retail lenders (over 27% of the credit portfolio is overdue, according to the bank's RAS financial statement as of May 1). Based on Fitch calculations, loan losses (loans overdue by 90+ days) reached 29% of the credit portfolio in mid-2015, and 27% at the end of 2015. "Numbers of our current lending under a stress scenario will withstand a deterioration of the interest quality by 30% in relative terms," Kordichev said in an interview to in March.

Uniastrum Bank and Orient Express Bank spokesmen have not yet presented comments.