Attacked in jail
In another move that raised concern, the head of Hermitage Capital Management, the single-largest portfolio investor in Russian stocks, was denied a visa to enter the country, sending a chill through the investment community. Bill Browder has called for improved corporate governance but has also been a cheerleader of the policies of President Putin, raising questions about the true reasons behind the move.
State natural gas monopoly Gazprom demanded a five-fold increase in natural gas prices paid by Belarus and said that it had already reached an agreement to double prices charged to Armenia. Hiking prices charged to former Soviet satellites is a departure from Gazprom’s previous approach, although consistent with the early January increase in prices charged to Ukraine.
The screws continued to tighten on Yukos, formerly Russia’s largest oil company, as a recently appointed senior manager charged with heading off bankruptcy was arrested. Meanwhile, jailed former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was reportedly attacked in prison but apparently was not seriously injured.
In the first transaction in what is likely to be an extended consolidation process, Russia’s third-largest and fifth-largest food retailers, Pyaterochka and Perekriostok, announced that they would merge, creating Russia’s largest grocery store company.