Russia Corporate Scandals ‘striking,’ Prosperity Ceo Says

Briton Kieron Bryan (R), a Greenpeace International commissioned freelance videographer, attends a bail hearing at the Regional Court of Murmansk October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Dmitri Sharomov/Greenpeace/Handout via Reuters

Freelance videographer Kieron Bryan and Greenpeace activist Phillip Ball, who, like the others, face piracy charges, had appealed against an order that they be held through late November. The court, in the northern port city of Murmansk, has already denied bail to four Russians held for the September 18 protest in which a Greenpeace ship was boarded by security forces close to an oil rig in the Arctic. The piracy charges – punishable by up to 15 years’ jail- appear aimed at sending a message that Moscow will not tolerate attempts to disrupt its development of the resource-rich Arctic that Greenpeace says could destroy a pristine environment. Other countries and companies are seeking to exploit Arctic energy resources and face similar concerns from environmentalists. A Finnish minister resigned on Friday over a row about a Greenpeace protest last year. Putin has said the activists were not pirates but that they had violated international law. The head of the Kremlin’s advisory body on human rights has said he would ask prosecutors to withdraw the piracy charges. Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, has written to President Vladimir Putin asking to meet him and offering to stand as security in Russia for the release of the activists on bail. Putin’s spokesman said the letter, published in Western media on Wednesday, had not yet arrived at the Kremlin, and said it unlikely to affect the legal process. “(Putin) probably cannot get involved in a discussion about the investigative activity that is taking place,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters. MINISTER RESIGNS Investigators have said more charges will be pressed against some protesters after drugs and other suspect items were found on the boat, the Arctic Sunrise. Greenpeace denies there were illegal items aboard. Greenpeace, whose activists tried to scale the Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya rig, says the protest was peaceful and calls the piracy charges absurd and unfounded. Those arrested include American, Argentinian, Australian, Brazilian, Canadian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, New Zealand, Swedish, Swiss, Polish, Turkish and Ukrainian citizens.

President Vladimir Putins government is struggling to lure foreign investors to counter capital outflows due to corporate governance disputes this year at TNK-BP, OAO Pharmstandard, Russias biggest drugmaker, and OAO Uralkali, the worlds largest potash producer. Russias benchmark Micex Index (MOSBIRZ) trades at the cheapest levels of all major emerging-market indexes. 27 after Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said his company may buy back minority shareholders at a premium. Until then, Sechin had resisted minority investors demands, saying at Rosnefts annual general meeting in April that Rosneft was not a charity fund. Disappointing Offer Rosneft has approved a buyout at 67 rubles a common share and 55 rubles for preferred shares in RN Holding. Sberbank CIB analysts said the offer was disappointing for investors as they estimated Rosneft paid about $3.70 a share, or about 120 rubles a share, to London-based BP Plc (BP/) and a group of Russian billionaires in a $55 billion cash-and-share deal. Westman said Prosperity hasnt received the offer. We will want to see a buyout offer that is higher, but some investors had given up and didnt think we get anything, he said. Alexander Branis, chief investment officer at Moscow-based Prosperity, advises the Kremlin on corporate governance and will shortly submit proposals on mandatory offers for minority shareholders, according to Westman. As part of our work trying to make Moscow into an international finance center, we are coming up with proposals to strengthen the hand of minority shareholders, he said, without going into specific details. Hermitage Capital Hermitage Capital, once Russia s largest portfolio investor, shut its Russia fund in March as its founder, Bill Browder, was being sued for libel in London and tried in absentia for tax evasion in Moscow. Hermitage, a shareholder activist fund that American-born Browder started in 1996 with the late billionaire Edmond Safra, peaked at more than $4 billion in 2005, according to Browder. Russia that year barred Browder from the country without explanation, triggering years of legal conflict, including over the 2009 death of Hermitage adviser Sergei Magnitsky while he was in pretrial detention in Moscow.

Russia’s Economic Slowdown In One Chart

Virtually every metric you can think of, housing, retail turnover, wages, and rail freight shipments, has been sub-par throughout 2013. The consensus forecasts give little grounds for optimism, as they expect only modest improvement in 2014. No its not the cataclysm that some analysts predicted, but the slowdown is a significant hurdle that Russia hasnt done a particularly good job of clearing. But while its true that Russias weakness hasnt been confined to a particular sector or industry, I think that the stagnation in industrial production is by far the most alarming. This is because, although its vulnerability to swings in energy prices is sometimes exaggerated, Russias economy really does benefit quite significantly from increases in the world price of oil. Oil prices have been at historically high levels , and Russias GDP has been correspondingly boosted. For all its many faults, the Kremlin is actually pretty good at getting petro rubles to trickle down to the population, and oil has helped keep wages and consumption robust. But industrial production is not dependent on world demand for energy, and is not automatically boosted by growth in other countries. It is also much more difficult for the state to simply increase by fiat. While the government can boost government wages or increase pensions (as it has done repeatedly over the past several years), its just a lot more difficult for it to increase the total output of the industrial sector. Worryingly, via the always useful FRED , the total production of Russian industry has been essentially flat since the beginning of 2012.