July 14th, 2011

First half of 2011 investment report: Russian IPOs and the “Khodorkovsky discount”

Neil Buckley, the Eastern Europe editor of the Financial Times, writes on the Valdai Club website today about the IPO shortfall in Russia, summarizing the dismal first half of 2011 for Russian companies looking to go public:

Analysts originally forecast private companies could raise more than $25bn in 2011 from so-called initial public offerings of their shares, up from only $5.5bn last year. In fact, only $3.9bn was raised in the first half of the year from a mere six deals.

Seven other planned Russian IPOs were postponed in the same period, he notes, prompting:

…more soul-searching about Russia’s lack of attractiveness to international investors, even as president Dmitry Medvedev has announced measures to try to improve the investment environment. It comes as domestic investors also seem reluctant to invest in Russia ahead of parliamentary elections in December and next March’s presidential poll – leading to billions of dollars of net capital outflows in recent months.

Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

While IPOs the world over have underperformed, Russia’s case is especially gloomy, as investors have been burned by Russian IPOs not materializing and poor performance with those that did, at least in the traditional extracting industries like metals and mining. (Search engine Yandex is the successful exception mentioned here.)

Buckley concludes by citing the political discount, often called the “Khodorkovsky discount” after the imprisoned former chief of Yukos whose case represents many of the challenges faced by Russian entrepreneurs today, that keeps Russian markets undervalued:

It is difficult to achieve top valuations for Russian IPOs when its whole market remains undervalued largely because of the political “discount” investors apply to the country [due to] perennial concerns over corruption and weak rule of law, [which] seem to reflect uncertainty over the outcome of the presidential election, and whether Russia will be able to conduct reforms needed to boost its flagging economic growth.

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