Russian capitalism turns off equity investors

Nov 08 2012, 21:38 IST
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Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Reuters)
SummaryTrade volumes slide after Vladimir Putin's return as Russia under performs other emerging markets.

has concluded: Russia remains unloved.

People like Russia - potentially, he said. But it has been a momentum trade for the past three or four years and a total derivative of global events and the oil price.

The recent sale of a $5-billion stake in state-controlled Sberbank did draw buyers - thanks to the stock's liquidity, strong management and restructuring potential. But those are rare qualities in a listed Russian company.

Steven Dashevsky of Dashevsky and Partners, an investment boutique, is scathing about those making the rules: Trading has died down, he said, Because the Russian government has made considerable efforts to demonstrate that it doesn't need a stock market and doesn't really need portfolio investors.

In the shadow

Stock markets worldwide have suffered declining turnover, as the fragile global economy fuels aversion to risk, but the slump in activity in Russia has been especially steep. Over the same 12 months to October, market turnover fell 34 percent in China and 22 percent in Turkey, Renaissance Capital calculates.

Russia has also seen a widening of its traditionally large valuation gap compared with emerging market peers, and now trades at a 40 percent discount on a price-earnings basis. Much of that is due to global investors shying away from risk assets.

Russia is absolutely in the shadow of global trends, said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Sberbank CIB. There needs to be a reduction in global risk phobia - no matter how cheap they are, investors won't look at fringe markets.

Although the MICEX index and its dollar-denominated peer the RTS have eked out modest gains for the year, they are still down a quarter and a third respectively from the highs they set in April 2011.

For those few Russia equity bulls, like Citi strategist Kingsmill Bond, the country now offers deep value and the market could rally if Putin's counter-reformation makes headway in implementing a series of steps to make it easier to do business.

Investors have been scared off by the negatives but need to recognise the positives, Bond wrote in a research note, predicting that Russia's valuation discount would halve to 20 percent by the end of 2013.

Russian indices are sensitive to shifts in the global business cycle and risk appetite, as the country's $2 trillion economy still relies heavily on energy and raw material exports.

More than 80 percent of Russian stock turnover is accounted for by the 10 most liquid stocks. Two - Rosneft and Sberbank

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