2014

Free Bird: Yukos Oil’s Ex-Chief Released

EMERGING MARKETS ROUNDUP By Kim Iskyan In December, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of Russia’s most high-profile political prisoners and the former CEO of Yukos Oil—at one point Russia’s largest oil company—was abruptly released. He had served about 10 years in prison, ...

2013

Russia: Arrest In 'Potash War'

EMERGING MARKETS ROUNDUP By Kim Iskyan Russian potash giant Uralkali in late July unexpectedly withdrew from an export delivery arrangement with Belarus Potash, the marketing agent for the Russian company and for Belaruskali, the Belarus national potash company. Uralkali announced ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

NEW CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR EXPECTED TO TOE THE POLITICAL LINE By Kim Iskyan The Russian economy continued to show signs of a slowdown, with GDP rising just 0.1% year-on-year in February. Weakness in household consumption growth, which was the key ...

Asian Development Bank Meeting Update

A REGION TRANSFORMED By Kim Iskyan The ability of workers in Asia to increase their skill set and improve their quality of life will be key themes at the Asian Development Bank’s upcoming annual meeting in Delhi, India. Senior government ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

GAZPROM DOUBLES PROFITS AS IT PREPARES FOR “EFFICIENCY” AUDIT By Kim Iskyan Gas giant Gazprom reported that net profit doubled in the third quarter of 2012, thanks to forex gains. The results came just days after the government announced that ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

PUTIN NIXES CALLS FOR POLITICAL REFORM By Kim Iskyan During his annual state-of-the-union address in mid-December, president Vladimir Putin focused on social spending priorities, including raising salaries for teachers, doctors and other professionals. He also underscored the need for social ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

BATTLE RAGES ON FOR NORILSK NICKEL By Kim Iskyan Russia’s economy continued to show signs of slowing, as preliminary GDP for October 2012 clocked in at a very weak 2.3%, marking the fifth consecutive month of deceleration. Can Abramovich end ...

2012

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

ROSNEFT-TNK-BP MERGER CREATES WORLD’S LARGEST OIL PRODUCER By Kim Iskyan Russian state oil producer Rosneft said it would purchase fellow oil giant TNK-BP from BP and a group of Russian investors, for $55 billion. The transaction would create the world’s ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

SBERBANK STAKE SOLD By Kim Iskyan State savings bank Sberbank’s 7.6% stake sale went through in mid-September, raising $5.2 billion and leaving the central bank a 50% plus-one-share stake in the country’s largest bank. The sale had been put on ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

CAPITAL FLIGHT GROWS AS POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY CONTINUES By Kim Iskyan Gazprom announced that it was indefinitely delaying additional investment in the Shtokman natural gas field in Arctic Russia. Global oil and gas firm Total, which holds a 25% stake in ...

Russia Finally Seated At The WTO Table

MILESTONES: RUSSIA By Kim Iskyan After a 19-year process, on August 22, Russia finally became a full-fledged member of the World Trade Organization. Russia expects long-term benefits from WTO membership Accession will have little impact in the short term, but ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

GOVERNMENT SOFTENS STANCE ON LEBEDEV PRISON TERM By Kim Iskyan A local court reduced the prison term of Platon Lebedev, the business partner of jailed former oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in what some analysts interpreted as a slight moderation of ...

Words Of Wisdom: Channa De Silva, LR Global

PEARL OF THE INDIAN OCEAN By Kim Iskyan Channa de Silva heads up LR Global Sri Lanka Asset Management, a top Sri Lankan private equity firm. He was previously CEO of the country's Securities Exchange Commission and executive director of ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

PRIVATIZATION PLAN COULD STUMBLE BEFORE LEAVING THE GATE By Kim Iskyan In early June, Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, agreed to buy DenizBank of Turkey from French-Belgian lender Dexia, for $3.5 billion. The deal marked Sberbank's second-largest transaction in recent years ...

Alfa Group Oligarch Leaves TNK-BP Chair

NEWSMAKERS: RUSSIA By Kim Iskyan Mikhail Fridman has overcome a lot of hurdles since his humble beginnings as a window-cleaning entrepreneur in Russia, just as the Soviet Union was unraveling. Fridman faces his most difficult maneuver yet Photo Credit : ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

FOREIGN AUTOMAKERS TAP RUSSIAN AUTO BOOM By Kim Iskyan French auto giant Renault-Nissan will control a majority stake in Russian automaker AvtoVAZ by 2014, under a deal signed in early May. Russian automakers open door to foreign investors Photo Credit ...

Regional Report: Caucasus

THREE COUNTRIES AT A CROSSROADS By Kim Iskyan Countries of the Caucasus have had very different fates since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Each is moving on a path toward economic stability and growth—albeit at very different paces—but each ...

Suu Kyi Heralds A New Era Of Reform In Myanmar

NEWSMAKERS: MYANMAR By Kim Iskyan By winning a seat in the country’s parliament in early-April by-elections, Myanmar dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi ushered in a new era in the history of the country formerly known as Burma. Suu Kyi’s ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

NEW BANK CAPITAL REQUIREMENTS COULD HEAT UP M&A By Kim Iskyan Acting finance minister Anton Siluanov threw his support behind a proposal to increase minimum capital requirements for banks after 2015 by more than five times—to around $34 million. Open-cut ...

Free Float Frees Up Sri Lankan Rupee

MILESTONES: SRI LANKA By Kim Iskyan After months of conjecture, Sri Lanka’s central bank announced on February 9 that it would no longer defend the rupee at a particular level—in effect, allowing it to float. The move spooked investors, spurring ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

PUTIN PROMISES GREATER SPENDING, PONDERS TAX HIKES By Kim Iskyan PM Putin won the presidential elections on March 4 with 64% of the vote, despite widespread claims of voter fraud. Taxing times for Putin Photo Credit: RAGNE KABANOVA / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

GROWING POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY HITS RATINGS OUTLOOK By Kim Iskyan In mid-January, ratings agency Fitch cut its outlook on Russia from positive to stable, citing increased domestic political uncertainty and potential damage to the Russian economy from deterioration in the global ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

PROTESTERS TAKE TO THE STREETS AFTER ELECTIONS By Kim Iskyan Political risk assumed center stage in Russia, as tens of thousands of demonstrators peacefully took to the streets in Moscow and throughout the country to protest widespread fraud in the ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

WHILE PROFITS SOAR, SBERBANK HALTS FOREIGN INVESTMENTS By Kim Iskyan Russian state savings bank Sberbank posted a 74% jump in third-quarter profits in late November on the back of sharp growth in lending. Putin gets poor response in parliamentary elections ...

Deep Freeze On IMF Lending To Ukraine

MILESTONES: UKRAINE By Kim Iskyan The IMF’s $15 billion loan program to Ukraine looks increasingly likely to be suspended at least until parliamentary elections in October 2012, following an early November visit by the IMF that ended without recommending the ...

2011

Hopes For Era Of Stability In Kyrgyzstan

MILESTONES: KYRGYZSTAN By Kim Iskyan Late October’s landslide victory of incumbent prime minister Almazbek Atambayev as the new president of Kyrgyzstan may bring a modicum of stability to the country’s tumultuous domestic political environment. Atambayev may favor Eastern alliances But ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

THRESHOLD RISES FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN THE NATURAL RESOURCE SECTOR By Kim Iskyan Russia’s parliament is set to approve long-awaited amendments to legislation on foreign investment in certain strategic sectors. Easing requirements for natural resources investment The legislative change will ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

PUTIN PRESIDENCY RUN FACES LITTLE OPPOSITION By Kim Iskyan Following much speculation on whether current Russian president Dmitry Medvedev or Prime Minister and former president Vladimir Putin would run for president in March 2012, Medvedev announced in late September that ...

Kudrin’s Shoes Will Be Hard To Fill

NEWSMAKERS: RUSSIA By Kim Iskyan Investors have long viewed Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin as the country’s second-most-important policymaker—and the primary reason for the dramatic turnaround in Russia’s macroeconomic position over the past decade. Alexei Kudrin refuses to serve in ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

PRIVATIZATION PLANS MAY GROW By Kim Iskyan Putin ally Valentina Matviyenko became the speaker of the Federation Council in Russia’s national parliament. Oil producer Rosneft may be fully privatized Governor of St. Petersburg and longtime Putin ally Valentina Matviyenko resigned ...

Investors Optimistic On Sri Lankan Growth

MILESTONES: SRI LANKA By Kim Iskyan It’s been a good run for Sri Lanka of late. In mid-July, all three major ratings agencies upped their views on the country, pointing to the ongoing recovery and broad economic stabilization. Economic stabilization ...

Kulibayev Front-Runner In Kazakhstan Succession

NEWSMAKERS: KAZAKHSTAN By Kim Iskyan Talk of who might replace Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev—who has ruled the oil-rich Central Asian country since 1989—has long been taboo in the country’s political circles. With Nazarbayev’s blessing Succession uncertainty has been the bane ...

Country Report: Russia

THREATENING THE ECONOMIC RENAISSANCE By Kim Iskyan Political uncertainty and continued dependence on oil exports are casting a pall over growth prospects in Russia. On the surface, Russia looks to be on the rebound. The macroeconomic situation is solid, thanks ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

POOR DUE DILIGENCE SPARKS CONCERN FOR BANKING SECTOR By Kim Iskyan In early July the Russian Central Bank said it would spend $14 billion to bail out the Bank of Moscow—until recently Russia’s fifth-largest bank. Bank of Moscow gets $14 ...

Shinawatra Must Bridge The Class Gap In Thailand

NEWSMAKERS: THAILAND By Kim Iskyan In early May, Yingluck Shinawatra was a prominent business executive in Thailand. Shinawatra: Following in her brother’s footsteps Two months later, she became the country’s first female prime minister. Her astonishingly rapid rise up the ...

Russia: Tensions Between Leadership Duo

EMERGING MARKETS ROUNDUP: RUSSIA by Kim Iskyan Medvedev and Putin go head to head During his June 17 speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russia’s version of Davos, president Dmitry Medvedev highlighted his reformist stance and sought to ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

POPULIST MOVES SUGGEST PUTIN IS SETTING SIGHTS ON PRESIDENCY By Kim Iskyan Following gasoline shortages in late April in a number of regions, prime minister Vladimir Putin announced a sharp hike in export taxes on motor fuel as a precursor ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

Capital Flees In Fear Of Political Uncertainty By Kim Iskyan The specter of presidential elections in March 2012 has resulted in a sharp increase in capital outflows. Russian heavy vehicle market returns The specter of presidential elections in March 2012 ...

Russia: Kremlin Easing Investment Restrictions

MILESTONES: RUSSIA By Kim Iskyan A handful of impressive high-profile deals, coupled with signs that restrictions on foreign investment in Russia’s natural resources sector may soon be relaxed, suggest the Russian government may be dropping its long-standing resistance to foreign ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

CENTRAL BANK RESPONDS TO PUBLIC ANGER OVER RISING PRICES By Kim Iskyan Inflation in Russia hit 9.6% at the end of February—nearly double the rate posted in summer 2010—the country’s central bank finally responded, raising base interest rates by 0.25% ...

Emerging Markets Roundup: Russia

ROUNDUP: RUSSIA By Kim Iskyan In mid-January, Russia’s key national oil company, Rosneft, and BP sealed a deal to swap shares and to jointly develop major oil fields in the Arctic. Falling: Siberian oil output Under the deal, Rosneft will ...