June 1st, 2010

Russia as Janus

Musings continue about the Foreign Ministry’s leaked policy document on engaging with the West to help Russia modernize. This new leaked policy seeks to import Western techonology and expertise to improve Russia’s infrastructure and jump start its techonolgy sector.

While Deripaska looks towards East for future initial public offerings of his other companies, notably EN+ Group, Rusal’s holding company, and OAO EuroSibEnergo, a power utility company. Rusal is the trailblazer Russian IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, but with it’s dismal performnace its first six months, it could leave a bad taste for other Asian investors. Additionally, institutional money managers are wary of Russian companies with opaque management rules and only promises of profits.

Investors both from the West and from Asia need to see commitment from the Russian government and the Russian business elite that they are serious about developing the technology and financial sectors in Russia. Russian businessman routinely top Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest; they clearly have the means to invest in domestic techonology firms. Russia’s political system as it has concentrated power to the executive branch has the political will to end corruption and strengthen the rule of law and improve its perception among foreign investors. But so far Russian businesman prefer to use their money on overseas investments while Russian politicans strengthen their own power at the expense of the country’s economic development.

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