Dollars and Jens
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
The Russian oligarch Aleksei Mordashov lost the battle for Arcelor for one reason, Russian politicians say: Russophobia, a bias against Russian businesses and businessmen.Mordashov may be right. Note that the story refers to him as an "oligarch". Draw your own connection, or keep reading:
The billionaire and his steel company, Severstal, were bumped aside last weekend as Arcelor's board accepted a takeover offer of €26.5 billion, or $33 billion, from Mittal Steel, saying it was a better fit. Mordashov's offer to take a big stake in Arcelor went by the wayside.
Western investors readily admit that the markets may not be completely comfortable with a wave of Russian takeovers.Also, if it's a genuine company, how long will it be before the state decides to confiscate it? It seems safer to invest in a country whose government respects rule of law.
"There is still this image that Russia is not a nice cuddly teddy bear, it is an aggressive bear" than can turn against investors, said Stephen Pope, head of equity research at Cantor Fitzgerald in London. Some investors still think that anything to do with Russia is "a little bit doubtful and dubious," he said.
When asked why they do not trust Russian businesses, European investors often mention Mikhail Khodorkovsky, founder of the Yukos oil company, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence in a Siberian penal colony, and the Russian company Gazprom's shutoff of gas supplies to Ukraine last year in a price dispute. Both examples show that the government has a strong hand in business matters, they say.
"One is not always clear whether these are genuine companies or fronts for the state," said Geoffrey Wood, a professor of economics at Cass Business School in London.