MOSCOW, RUSSIA — VTB, a Russian state-controlled bank that is the largest operator of the country’s grain export infrastructure and a major grain trader after a series of acquisitions in 2019, told Interfax news agency on Jan. 23 that it plans to attract more investors to its grain business in February.

VTB has said it plans to expand its grain business further and then exit.

“It (the partner) will appear in February, maybe even more than one,” Interfax quoted VTB’s Yuri Soloviev as saying.

The investors are likely to be Russian partners, he said, adding that the size of the stake for sale is being discussed, but VTB would retain a controlling stake.

VTB, Russia’s second largest lender, previously said it could sell a stake in its grain business in December, but no deal has been announced. It also said previously it could team up with a global trader.

VTB is consolidating its grain assets in Demetra (Demeter) Holding, which it owns via affiliates. Its assets include stakes in grain terminals in the Black Sea port of Novorovossiisk, in local grain trader Miro and in Russia’s largest grain rail-wagon owner Rustranscom (RTC).

Soloviev said VTB’s stake in the holding could in theory drop below 75% after the sale but the aim of the bank is to “keep the management of the integrated chain” for itself.

“We are going to maintain control, because we believe that we need to finish the job, develop operational management, move the company,” Sloviev told Interfax.

In September, VTB said it planned to enter grain markets in Africa, the Middle East and Asia to increase Russian grain exports.

VTB has a stated goal of wanting to create a vertically integrated player in the grain market.