Author: Kim Iskyan



By Kim Iskyan



Moscow metro bombings provoke renewed security fears

Two suicide bombings in the Moscow metro in late March that killed more than 40 people renewed fears about the terrorist threat in Russia's population centers. The bombings, orchestrated by North Caucasian militants, prompted some tough rhetoric from the Kremlin, but a significant political or military response is unlikely at this point. Investors took the attack in stride, as markets continued to push to post-crisis highs.

A major shareholder of long-troubled UK-Russia oil joint venture TNK-BP announced that Rosneftegaz, the entity that controls government oil producer Rosneft, will purchase the rights to the Kovykta gas field for as much as $900 million. If the transaction happens at the indicated pricing, which appears likely, it would mark a positive conclusion to a long-simmering dispute between authorities—which have threatened to retract the license—and TNK-BP. Market concern focused on the possibility that the license would in effect be confiscated and handed over to state gas producer Gazprom.

Oil giant Conoco plans to sell as much as half of its long-held 20% stake in Russian oil producer Lukoil. Conoco said that the union had resulted in few new opportunities. Separately, Lukoil head Vagit Alekperov complained that the company—the largest privately controlled hydrocarbon producer in Russia—has been unable to win the rights to new fields because of the competition from Rosneft and Gazprom, both of which are state-controlled.

The post-crisis flood of Russian corporate bond issuances continued, with quasi-sovereign Russian Railways selling a $1.5 billion bond that was more than 10 times oversubscribed, adding to the more than $7 billion already issued in 2010 thus far. Many companies are refinancing more expensive debt, while some are eager to take advantage of renewed investor appetite for risk. More than $10 billion in equity issuance is expected over the next year, although investors are likely to be considerably more demanding with valuation levels than they were prior to the global economic crisis.