SocGen's Russian unit fires CEO Golubkov


French bank Societe Generale's Russian unit Rosbank has dismissed Chief Executive Vladimir Golubkov following his prosecution for bribery and will launch a search for a successor, it said on Monday.

France's second-biggest bank is seeking to reassure markets that it can overcome the latest blow to its underperforming Russian subsidiary after a years-long turnaround campaign that has cost billions.

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Rosbank said its board had fired Golubkov with immediate effect. His first deputy, Igor Antonov, will continue as acting chief executive until a replacement can be found.

Golubkov was arrested this month after being filmed by investigators with piles of cash on his office desk. He pleaded innocent to bribery charges that, if he is convicted, could put him behind bars for seven years.

The bribery case has raised questions about strategy at SocGen, which paid an estimated 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) to acquire 82 percent of Rosbank. The business has failed to generate meaningful profits in Russia.

SocGen's Didier Hauguel, who oversees the French bank's activities in Russia as well as its insurance and specialised financial services operations, told newspaper Le Figaro on Monday that morale at Rosbank was "intact".

"(Replacing Golubkov) was an emergency measure but Antonov is chief executive in his own right," Hauguel told the daily. "I do not want to be making decisions at each turn of events."

While analysts and bankers have criticised SocGen for failing to establish stronger management control over Rosbank, Hauguel defended his role, saying in the interview that a lot of executives had been replaced over the past year.

"I don't feel that I behaved as if it were a walk in the park," he said.

The appointment of a new chief executive would require the blessing of Russia's central bank.

($1=0.7734 euros)

(Reporting by Katya Golubkova in Moscow and Lionel Laurent in Paris; Editing by Mark Potter and Greg Mahlich)