Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

evraz_transparency

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Evraz group, controlled by Roman Abramovich and Alexander Abramov, is listed on the main board of the London Stock Exchange (LSE). It is also the second most indebted steelmaker in Russia, with a current debt of about $6.5 billion, and a loss on its 2013 balance-sheet of $572 million.

This parlous condition is obliging Abramovich and Abramov to get rid of as many of their lossmaking steelmills as they can, and avoid defaulting on their bank loan covenants. Because the duo miscalculated when they paid premium prices for their foreign assets, the writedowns to the current value of their purchases are inflicting big numbers on the loss line of the Evraz financial reports, eliminating shareholder dividends, and cutting market capitalization. At the moment, the market values Evraz at £1.3 billion ($2.2 billion) – that’s to say, one-third of what Evraz owes its banks. The market capitalization has been dwindling steadily since February 2012 when it was £6.9 billion. Among Russian steelmakers only Igor Zyuzin, owner of the Mechel group, has generated more debt, and destroyed more asset value.
(more…)

Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

ukrussy_riot

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Easter holidays have come early for the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) User-Generated Content Hub (UGC) in London. That’s the BBC’s centre for expertise whose purpose is to make sure that published images, still and moving, soundtracks, and other documentary film material, are authentic, and mean what the Corporation says they mean in its broadcasts. The UGC was also off work a little more than a year ago, when in a series of broadcasts by Moscow correspondent Steven Rosenberg (lower left), the BBC produced false text, fabricated images, and invented, mashup soundtrack of the Pussy Riot group.

On that occasion – actually, seven months later, after this report exposed what had happened – the BBC opened an investigation, concluding that text had been “incorrect”; “misleading impression” had occurred; “errors” were made. “Any suggestion that the BBC fabricated or staged any footage is absolutely untrue,” the BBC correction declared. “We are taking steps to ensure the errors are not repeated.” Except during school midterms and on religious holidays.
(more…)

Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

romania_deripaska

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Oradea alumina refinery is a property of Oleg Deripaska’s in Romania. Deripaska (centre image) is the chief executive and controlling shareholder of United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly. Deripaska bought Oradea in 2000 over the unanimous objections of the senior management of Rusal in Moscow at the time. The company’s experts warned that Oradea would be too costly to operate, and of insufficient benefit to Rusal for its alumina needs to warrant the expense.

Since then the asset has all but disappeared from the balance-sheets of Deripaska’s holdings. His ownership of the plant is almost invisible in Romania itself. But the refinery is still there, shuttered and unsellable.
(more…)

Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

punch

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Australian Government has decided not to exclude President Vladimir Putin from the summit meeting of the G-20 heads of government scheduled for Brisbane in November. The move to withdraw the entry ban, first declared on March 19, is too late to prevent the restoration of Australia’s $200 million beef export trade to Russia. According to importers in Moscow, the orders for that meat are now going to several South American countries. Imports of pork, veal and turkey from the US, banned by Russia for more than a year, have been revived.
(more…)

Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

magic_alscon

By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the state aluminium monopoly run by Oleg Deripaska, is selling the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon). Only the Rusal announcement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) doesn’t put a name to the asset. Rusal is also not accepting that the Nigerian courts have already decided the Alscon asset isn’t Rusal’s property to dispose of.

The decision to sell Alscon was reported to the exchange on April 8. The notice explains that the Jersey subsidiary of Rusal, RTI Limited, has hired Renaissance Securities to provide “financial advisory services in respect of a potential sale of shares of a subsidiary(ies) of the Company.” The services are to cost “up to USD10 million (including a fixed success fee of USD3 million and an incentive fee of up to USD7 million) for the entire term of the Mandate Letter, including any extended period of the term.”
(more…)

Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

usc_trotsenko

By John Helmer, Moscow

From the affairs of the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), once chaired by Igor Sechin and run by his protégé Roman Trotsenko, much of significance flows, if not a great many new ships. And if it weren’t for the significance of those two names, not much would follow from the case of Ilya Novoselsky, until recently chief lawyer for USC, and now under arrest in St. Petersburg on charges of abuse of authority and fraud.

For the time being and for that reason, he is incommunicado. So too is Trotsenko (image below). Rosneft, which Sechin has headed since 2011, confirms that “at the moment Trotsenko leads Rosneft Overseas SA.” This entity is registered in Switzerland and maintains an office in Geneva. Trotsenko and a Swiss lawyer named Daniel Richard are the signatories; Richard’s daytime job is at the Geneva law firm of Python & Peter.
(more…)

Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

sinking_feeling

By John Helmer, Moscow

Anne Applebaum is one of the advocates of war against Russia to the last Ukrainian – and to the last Pole, too.

Until very recently, she proposed reinforcing Poland’s borders with fresh North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces. On March 20, the Washington Post gave her a platform to declare: “we need to re-imagine NATO, to move its forces from Germany to the alliance’s eastern borders.” There are currently about 40,000 US forces in Germany, 21,500 UK troops, and 160,000 in the German Army. Assuming Applebaum means to leave the Bundeswehr to stay put and not repeat a former mistake, altogether, Applebaum proposes to redeploy to the NATO side of Russia’s frontier, 61,500 men.
(more…)

Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

us_politburo

By John Helmer, Moscow

Rarely is it possible to find a history professor’s work on Russia to be self-evidently what it isn’t – and yet to find its premise locked by high-ranking US Government officials into a state policy of Kremlin attack and Russian regime change.

J. Arch Getty III is a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. His new book, published by Yale University Press, is called Practicing Stalinism, Bolsheviks, Boyars and the Persistence of Tradition. This is a misnomer because most of the book is taken up with attempts to demonstrate that Russian political culture predates Stalin and the Bolsheviks by a thousand years, and postdates Stalin by another fifty. Getty skips Boris Yeltsin in order to concentrate on Vladimir Putin and make him appear to be “practicing Stalinism” – what Getty really means is something that isn’t Stalinism at all. His word for it is clientelism; cronyism is another.
(more…)

Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

au_ban

By John Helmer, Moscow

Australian meat imports to Russia have been banned by an order of the Russian veterinary and phyto-sanitary service, Rosselkhoznadzaor (RSN). The order was issued on March 31, and halts a trade which earned Australian meat exporters almost $200 million last year. The Russian action came twelve days after the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, announced that President Vladimir Putin may be banned from entering Australia to attend the G20 summit meeting, scheduled in Brisbane in November.

The RSN announced that it has found traces of a growth hormone or steroid called Trenbolone, first in chilled Australian beef, then in beef offal, and now in frozen beef. RSN official Alexei Alexeyenko said the comprehensive ban was imposed after RSN judged that certifications from the Australian government’s veterinary authorities could not be trusted. This followed negotiations between RSN and their Australian counterparts between December and February, and after the Australians had given fresh undertakings. According to Sergei Dankvert, the head of RSN, the Australians had promised to exclude from their exports to Russia meat with trenbolone traces, but this hasn’t happened.
(more…)

Email This Post - Print This Post Print This Post

eu_donkey

By John Helmer, Moscow

The European Union’s emergency trade assistance package for Ukraine provides duty-free entry into the European market if you are a Ukrainian exporter of asses, mules, and hinnies. If the regions of the Ukraine are to have a say in the trade terms, the enterprises of the southern and eastern regions aren’t likely to approve, because most of the new trade advantages have been granted by Brussels to farmers and foodstuff enterprises in the west.

One of the largest single beneficiaries, according to the European Trade Commissioner’s office, is the Roshen confectionery group owned by Petro Poroshenko (image, right). He is also the front-running candidate in the Ukrainian presidential election due on May 25. “Chocolate and cocoa products will benefit from a substantial preferential treatment,” says John Clancy, spokesman for Karel De Gucht, the EU trade commissioner, “as the large majority of them falls under the category that will be immediately liberalised (zero duty). For a few specific products, and for some confectionery, the liberalisation will apply within the quantitative limits established by the tariff quotas, as indicated in the annex to the schedule.”
(more…)