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Today in Russian Business – Dec 9, 2010

Privatization gains estimates for next year: $15 billion?  A WikiLeaks cable suggests that US diplomats intervened to try and sway a Russian law to prevent it from damaging Visa and MasterCard interests – the former of course being one of the companies that has severed ties from the organization this week.  Mergers and acquisitions are at a three-year high at the moment, in part thanks to lower dollar borrowing costs.  Stocks are doing well, with many large Western brokers favoring Russia as its top emerging market: ‘It’s very unfashionable to say so but Russia looks cheap to me.‘  And a Reuters analyst poll suggests that Russian stocks ‘will offer investors over 20 percent gains in the coming year‘.  Major businesses are currently debating minority shareholders’ rights, with many, including VTB, calling for them to be curtailed, despite complaints that this will reduce transparency and negatively effect the investment climate.  Pipe makers are calling for an extension on protective duties for pipes from Ukraine, complaining that they have little protection against cheap imports.  Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is promising $3.9 billion to the pharmaceutical industry to increase its independence, with more domestic production and exports, and is threatening restrictions for companies that fail to develop local production.  The Moscow Times writes on the end of Russia’s position as a ‘net saver‘, its peculiar status as a ‘major creditor country‘ despite being ‘relatively unattractive to investors‘, and the next phase, in which it ‘will have to depend on net capital inflows to finance a negative current account of goods and services‘.