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Russia's Sberbank to close gaming unit as restrictions bite

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(Reuters) - Russia's dominant lender Sberbank on Wednesday said it would close its gaming unit, SberGames, due to external restrictions on Russian developers, as Western sanctions force the company to scale back in areas beyond banking.

Sberbank has been developing its non-financial businesses such as e-commerce, technology and cloud services in an attempt to combat shrinking margins, and although it maintains a presence in several other sectors, its gaming efforts will fall by the wayside.

"Due to external restrictions for Russian developers on the global market, Sber has taken the decision to close its gaming business," Sberbank said in a statement.

The Kommersant daily in early May cited a source as saying that SberGames may have to close as it faced difficulties in distributing its games since Apple and Alphabet's Google limited access to their application stores.

"SberGames is stopping hiring new employees and launching new projects," Sberbank said. "It is planned that some SberGames employees will move to work in other departments of the bank and the company's ecosystem."

Sberbank, hit with blocking sanctions by the United States and United Kingdom and losing access to the SWIFT global payments system, has exited most of its European markets and been forced to make some dollar-denominated debt repayments in roubles as the West targets Russia's key institutions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

(Reporting by Reuters ;Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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