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UniCredit executive says chances to cut Russia exposure 'limited'

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FILE PHOTO: The UniCredit bank logo in the old city centre of Siena, Italy
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By Valentina Za

MILAN (Reuters) -UniCredit has "limited" opportunities to reduce its exposure to Russia, the Italian bank's finance chief said on Wednesday, ruling out providing further support for the Russian subsidiary while emphasising it was not a financial drain on the group.

UniCredit continues to assess options to reduce its exposure "at the right conditions" with a fully dedicated team, Chief Financial Officer Stefano Porro said.

"We're looking at all potential options at a defensible price," he said, adding that the Russian business contributes liquidity to the group.

"We're (a) net borrower," Porro told Goldman Sachs' yearly European Financials Conference in Rome.

Net cash from the Russian subsidiary, whose amount UniCredit has not disclosed, would have to be at least partially surrendered to a future buyer, a person close to the matter has previously told Reuters.

JP Morgan analysts have estimated the group's debt towards the Russian unit at 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion).

Porro said UniCredit had time to decide how to proceed in relation to Russia, having already booked in the first quarter 70% of the capital hit from the loss it would suffer in a worst-case scenario.

"The specific team is there, working for both local and cross-border, looking ... to de-risk at the right conditions, but it is important to say that now opportunities are more limited," he said.

Since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, UniCredit has been working to cut its exposure to Russia, swapping assets to reduce its cross-border loan book, which Porro said totalled 3 billion euros, in line with the end-March level.

"The performance is good because they are all performing," he said.

It has also been reviewing options for its Russian bank, including selling up, which it has emphasised would be a complex and lengthy process.

Porro said the bank ruled out providing further financial support to its Russian arm, the country's 14th-largest bank, through liquidity and capital.

The unit's current capital and liquidity situation "is good, is sound", he said, adding the subsidiary was also keeping intra-group derivative contracts fully collateralised.

Sources have told Reuters that UniCredit had widened the search for potential buyers beyond local investors to include countries such as India, Turkey and China due to escalating Western economic sanctions against Russia.

($1 = 0.9314 euros)

($1 = 0.9353 euros)

(Reporting by Valentina Za; editing by John O'Donnell and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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