Today’s Wall Street Journal has managed the feat of getting an interview (albeit a somewhat tetchy one) with siloviki chieftain and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin. The Rosneft Chairman had plenty to talk about regarding the new dispute-sparking deal with BP, whilst also refuting comparisons between Russia and Egypt, and blaming Google for manipulating the demos into overthrowing the creaking Mubarak regime. He was also particularly keen to stress the benefits of investing in Russia, going so far as to volunteer the example of much-aggrieved former Russia investor Bill Browder, as the model of a happy customer:
You know, Mr. Browder [William Browder of Hermitage Capital] is often mentioned by the media, in connection with this name you can discuss everything, but not the economic outcomes of his work. I think in terms of profit from cooperation with the Russian assets, he is a happy man. The effectiveness is just the highest–thousands of percent return on invested capital!
WSJ: But then the entry to the country was denied for him, and his poor lawyer died in jail.
Sechin: A death of any human being is a tragedy. In such cases, one should always act according to law. A criminal case was opened upon the death, the investigation is under way, and I am confident that the court will clear up everything.
As for Browder, I, frankly speaking, do not know what kind of visaproblems he has. I admit that there are some other reasons for the banon his entry, but certainly it is not the economy. And certainly it isnot his economic interests.
Personally I have a very good feeling for Browder. He is adapted toRussia, married to a Russian woman. And of course, his desire to come toRussia is understandable.
WSJ: For an investor it’s very important to know that there are bothstability and prospects. In the beginning of 2005 in Davos, Browder wassaying very positive things, speaking in support of Russia. In the endof the same year he is refused a visa, and soon all of his business herewas folded up.
Sechin: What is important for an investor? To have an economic result.This is his economic efficiency. Browder is a man of genius. He hadbelieved and invested in Russia. And he didn’t miscalculate. Economicefficiency of his investments surpasses all imagination.
WSJ: Don’t you think that it affects the investors’ perception of Russia?
Sechin: It attracts investors. What is important for them? It isimportant for the investors to have their property rights secured, andthat nobody touched them. Has anything ever been expropriated fromBrowder? Nothing has been expropriated. Such a thought has never evercrossed anyone’s mind. He makes a purchase–very well, then. He collectshis dividends, and he earns. What is important for an investor? It’simportant to have clear rules of the game. And they do exist. No one cansay that they unexpectedly change, that one day we have one rules, andthe next day we suddenly have other.
WSJ: But that’s exactly what Browder claims.
Sechin: It is difficult for me to comment on this. I think he is doingfine. And what exactly had happened then, needs to be studied.
Read the whole interview here.