In our idiotically interconnected Globalist world, no country of any size should be off the investor’s radar. A collapse there means at least a wobble here, and vice-versa. You may not be interested in the land of samovars, but you can bet the farm that the Chancellor is….thanks to the legacy of RBS.
The Russian State last night announced its target to sell over £20 billion of stock in the numerous companies it still owns. There’s nothing new in this – they’ve been dithering over how to do it for nearly two years – but the pace has very clearly quickened over the last fortnight. There is an air of kick-and-scramble about the sell-off now….Russia tends to be like that in anything to do with economics and fiscal matters. Some of the more aggressive reformers wanted only a bare majority holding to be retained by the Kremlin, and last Monday the State railways were still in the grab-bag. But now they’ve been kept to one side (under military pressure, I’m led to understand) and no company will now go below 75% government ownership.
The acceleration to market and high retention levels of ownership are begging two questions that must soon collide: is this really a privatisation, or is it flogging household effects to the pawnbroker; and will anyone want to buy into companies with that much dead bureaucracy left in them?
The Slog has run two stories since April about the state of Russian finances – the first about the poor state of bank loan collateral (fully 70% of which is owned by dear old RBS) and the second just over a week ago about the State’s sudden decision to treble its bond sales. Added to the equally sudden desire to get off the pot about selling big State companies, it has to suggest a whiff of insolvency in the air.
We said then that Russian debt was one to watch. The Slog’s view is that this news makes the investment one to studiously avoid. It’s crowded enough already on the default radar: adding the Russian bear is the last thing we (or George Osborne) needs.