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Today in Russian Business – Feb 14, 2011

This is … proof of the trust in the Russian financial system’.  So says Prime Minister Putin of VTB’s asset sale, which has kicked off Russia’s privatization drive today by raising $3.26 billion for the government via a secondary placement.  Whilst pig iron producer KOKS, steel pipemaker Chelpipe and Nord Gold have all pulled their IPOs, there remains optimism about the possibility of further share sales, says Reuters.  Meanwhile a small pizza restaurant company claims it has raised $20.3 million in a share float in Germany, suggesting Russian companies might do well to look elsewhere than London for their listings.  ‘British citizens are not safe to invest or do business. In fact, the more successful you are, the more likely you are to be targeted by the corrupt regime’: a warning from Bill Browder as Sergei Lavrov lands in London.  The Washington Post examines the ongoing trials of seafood merchant Arkadi Gontmakher, who remains trapped in Russia over what he claims are trumped up criminal charges against him.  Finance magazine has published its list of Russia’s billionaires, revealing Metalloinvest’s founder Alisher Usmanov has replaced Roman Abramovich in the rankings, partly the result it suggests, of the ‘timely diversification towards telecommunications and the Internet assets’.   Arkady Rotenberg, the former judo sparring partner of Vladimir Putin, has been seen to creep up the rankingsReuters has reprinted the top ten and has a list of the main movers.  The FT reports that the list reflects a new record for the number of Russian dollar billionaires, with a total of 114.  Population decline and an increase in spending may see Russia’s debt surge up to a startling 585% of GDP by 2050, says Bloomberg.