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By John Helmer, Moscow

Mr Hiccup (left) was the lead character of an Italian-Swiss cartoon of thirty years ago. His chronic hiccups persisted for years, inflicting cost, pain and misfortune on almost everyone unlucky enough to meet him. In each of 39 episodes Mr Hiccup tried a new remedy, but he always failed. Others paid the price. And so it’s been for Mikhail Fridman (right), the Russian oligarch, who had lunch with the Financial Times last month. That’s when Fridman revealed he’s Mr Hiccup.

Fridman owns Alfa, a large Russian bank; Vimpelcom, a global telecommunication group; X5, a Russian supermarket and grocery chain; , and LetterOne Energy, an international oil and gas operator and explorer.

In March 2013 he earned about $9 billion from selling his share of the TNK-BP oil company to state-owned Rosneft. Since then the capitalisation of Alfa Bank has dropped from $6.7 billion to $5.9 billion, according to the bank’s last Eurobond prospectus. Over the same period, the New York-listed Vimpelcom has dropped in market capitalisation from $18.7 billion to $6.9 billion. The London-listed X5 has gained in value from $5 billion to $5.5 billion.

L1 Energy paid $5.8 billion for the German oilfield operator, DEA, but after the deal was reversed last year by an Anglo-American sanction on Fridman for being Russian, the resale value of the North Sea assets — a large fraction of DEA’s operating value — dropped to $750 million. For Fridman’s summary of his current asset positions – without valuations – there is his website, and this interview with a manager from McKinsey & Co. “These are just my humble opinions,” Fridman (below, left) adds, “I’m not actually a professional… no Harvard Business School graduate! It’s just based on our own experience. Our own operations. Dominic [Barton of McKinsey, right]: You’re very modest.”

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As for LetterOne’s assessment of Russia, Fridman’s partner, Pyotr Aven, says they are against social welfare spending, defense spending, public sector spending, and capital controls. The capital outflow from Russia, which Aven describes as “huge”, plus “a lack of western investment, due in part to sanctions, have made economic growth critically dependent on government investment.” Read more.

How much of Fridman’s investment value and rate of return prospects are believed in the market by investors ready to buy his shares or bonds?

Fridman is one of the very few figures in the history of the Japanese-American newspaper, Financial Times – Japanese owner, American readers – to have been invited to two lunches with the FT, the weekend platform for displaying the virtue of talking and chewing at the same time. Fridman’s first FT lunch was published on March 15, 2003. The second appeared on April 2, 2016. For what Fridman said and ate on both occasions, click to open.

As the market digested what he had to say, this is what happened to Fridman’s listed shares on the New York and London stock exchanges.

VIMPELCOM SHARE PRICE TRAJECTORY SINCE FT LUNCH

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Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/VIP:US

X5 SHARE PRICE TRAJECTORY SINCE FT LUNCH

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Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/FIVE:LI

THE HICCUP EFFECT, VIMPELCOM AND X5 COMPARED

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Key: brown = X5, blue = Vimpelcom

ALFA BANK ROUBLE BOND PRICE TRAJECTORY SINCE FT LUNCH

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Alfa’s BO-09 bond was issued on the domestic market for Rb5 billion (then $157 million) for three years, August 20, 2013-August 20, 2016.
Source for chart: Moscow MICEX

ALFA BANK EUROBOND (2011-2021) PRICE TRAJECTORY SINCE FT LUNCH

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Source: Frankfurt Exchange chart. To follow the latest Alfa Eurobond for $500 million, issued in November 2015, click here

And here’s what happened to the original Mr Hiccup.

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