Goldman sees opportunities in Russia now

Updated: 2011-06-20 07:59

By Jason Corcoran (China Daily)

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MOSCOW - Goldman Sachs Group Inc is advising clients to avoid delaying investment decisions for Russia until it becomes clear who will be the next president after elections in March.

"There's not a lot of wisdom to wait," said Christopher Barter, co-chief executive officer for Goldman's Russia unit, at a conference in St Petersburg on Saturday. "Our advice to clients who think there could be a dramatic change is not to wait. The opportunities are enormous and valuations are very attractive."

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have yet to announce whether either will run for the presidency next year and political uncertainty before parliamentary elections in December and the 2012 vote are spurring capital flight from Russia, German Gref, chief executive officer at OAO Sberbank, the nation's largest lender, said on April 15. Russia's central bank posted $30 billion of outflows in the first four months of the year, near the $35.3 billion for all of 2010.

Goldman Sachs, the fifth-largest US bank by assets, jumped to fourth place in handling equity sales for Russian companies last year, its highest position ever, behind VTB Capital and Renaissance Capital, both based in Moscow, and Morgan Stanley.

"The old perception of Goldman Sachs in Russia is that we haven't been consistent in our efforts in this country," Barter said in an interview in Moscow on May 12. "This is not the reality today."

Goldman was one of the four banks chosen by the central bank on June 14 to manage a sale of part of its stake in Sberbank, a transaction that may be worth as much as $7 billion. It also helped to sell 300 million pounds ($487 million) of sterling-denominated bonds issued by OAO Russian Railways on June 15 and assisted with Russian search engine owner Yandex NV's $1.3 billion initial public offering in May.

Last year was the biggest for Russian mergers and acquisitions since 2007, helped by 96 deals worth $50.9 billion in the fourth quarter alone, according to Bloomberg data. Russia has seen deals worth $36 billion in the first half, up from $26 billion for the same period a year earlier.

"A large part of why these banks are coming to St Petersburg is because of this M&A and privatization business," said Clemens Grafe, chief economist for Goldman in Russia, at the conference in St Petersburg on June 16. "The old corporate landscape is changing."

Russian stocks are still cheap, Jim O'Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong, broadcast on May 13. A global stock rally "could start in China", he said.

Russia's benchmark Micex Index has risen 21 percent over the last year, advancing to a three-year high on April 6. The 30-stock gauge slid 2.3 percent last week as oil, the country's main export earner, tumbled 6.3 percent on concern Greece's debt crisis will hobble a global recovery.

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