Today in Russian Business – Dec 31, 2008

State-owned Vneshekonombank (VEB) has approved a proposal to lend $1.5 billion to domestic mining companies to help cover foreign debts – likely favoring those recently listed in the strategic sectors list.  Today concludes the final day of trading on the RTS for 2008, the worst performing year since 1992 with a cumulative drop in value of 72% – ranking at the bottom of the world’s 20 largest equity indices.  The ruble has lost the most value against the currency basket since it was implemented in 2005.  State officials say that inflation clocked in at 13.3% for the year.  Chinese computer company Lenovo Group is considering merging its Greater China and Russia operations with its Asia Pacific operations in response to the crisis.  The IMF will extend a $2.5 billion credit line to Belarus, while Georgia will receive a $200 million loan from the EBRD.

And from the Financial Times, a Chinese law firm has its eyes on landing big petrodollar clients in Russia, and hopes this merger will help:

King & Wood, China’s largest law firm, is set to announce the first merger between a mainland Chinese and a foreign law firm, underlining the growing international ambitions of Chinese legal practices.

King & Wood plans to integrate SG Fafalen, a Swiss law firm registered in Hong Kong.

The Swiss firm’s founder and owner, Serge Fafalen, could facilitate access to “petrodollar” clients, particularly in Russia, where he has spent much of his professional life, King & Wood believes.