Russia FDI flows tripled in first half 2015: OECD

By bne IntelliNews October 29, 2015

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developments (OECD) shows foreign direct investment flows to Russia almost tripled in the first half of 2015 amid signs the economy is recovering and becoming an investment destination again. 

FDI flows rose to $12bn in the first six months from the very low level of just $4.7bn for the same period a year ago, according to the report published by the OECD on October 29.

Foreign investment in Russia practically came to a shuddering halt last year as European and US companies and financial institutions froze new investments in the country after sanctions were introduced for the Kremlin's involvement in the armed conflict in East Ukraine. A collapse in the ruble and the price of commodities also conspired to push Russia into its first recession since 2009. 

Overseas investment in oil and gas, metallurgy, trade agriculture and real estate investment virtually ceased as companies decided to opt out rather than try to navigate the sanctions minefield.

Data from the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) put capital outflows last year at $151bn compared to $61bn for 2013. The IMF predicts full year capital outflows of $113bn this year. 

Maxim Oreshkin, Russia's Deputy Finance Minister, told foreign investors on October 21 that the country is now emerging from its biggest crisis since the USSR was whip-sawed by the 1985 collapse in oil prices.

Russian foreign debt has dropped 30% this year to about $500bn from $700bn, despite economic sanctions and the recession. The current account and fiscal balances improved this year even as oil prices declined two-fold. 

A new agreement brokered in Paris on October 2 to hold elections in East Ukraine, along with a ceasefire and a continuing withdrawal of weapons from the front lines, boosted hopes that Russian companies will allow to tap international capital markets again. Gazprom and Norilsk Nickel have already succeeded in raising over $2bn in the first deals in 11 months, while the sovereign is eyeing a $3bn Eurobond for early next year.   

Corporate profits are now growing at "double-digit rates" because of nominal wages growing at a much lower rate, Oreshkin said. This is translating into a bottoming out of the negative GDP trend. "We plan to have positive quarter-on quarter positive growth in Q4 and next year we expect to see 0.5% growth," he told delegates at the RussiaTalk forum on October 21. The government is seeing the return of foreign capital "after the shocking events of the last 18 months", the deputy minister emphasised.

"We see the resumption of syndicated lending of Russian borrowers, capital inflow to subsidiaries of foreign companies for new investments as well as investments of British investors in Russian debt securities," Oreshkin said.

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