“Exports Support is a Top-Priority Line of Activity for us”
The Russian authorities are fulfilling their promise to create conditions for promoting Russian high-technology products to foreign markets by minimizing risks of financial losses as well as by improving conditions for funding exports on the part of banks. The creation of a comprehensive system of the state’s credit, insurance and guarantee support for Russian industrial exports is nearing completion. A key role in this system is assigned to Vnesheconombank. Director of the Export Financing Department Daniil Algulyan told AviaPort Agency about basic elements, mechanisms and instruments of the system to insure exports against entrepreneurial and political risks as well as about VEB’s role in supporting exports.
-To what extent is an issue of exports support topical for Russia?
-Russia is an integral part of the world economy and is permanently among the ten largest exporter countries. In 2012, the volume of Russian exports reached 18.5 trillion rubles. Exports account for a significant part of GDP, create jobs and increase production output. Promoting Russian companies internationally is a major factor of the country’s development. Despite the impressive growth in overall volumes of exports, we still depend significantly on exporting raw materials. A key challenge to further development of not only exports but also Russia’s whole economy is to urgently increase a proportion of high-technology products and services. This is a very difficult challenge. Nowadays, we are facing fiercer competition from producers from other countries.
At the same time, in many countries they put in place government export support systems. These instruments create additional advantages for these contries’ producers. For example, OECD countries commit in total more than 100 billion dollars a year in the form of government support for export mid and long-term financing. In this situation many Russian companies have to operate on international markets in unequal conditions. We should create a Russian exports support system to change such a situation.
-What VEB’s subsidiary institutions can participate in using mechanisms for supporting exports?
-A universal exports support system is being set up as part of Vnesheconombank Group. It will be comprised of VEB itself (the Export Financing Department) as well as a number of subsidiary institutions: OJSC the Export Insurance Agency of Russia (EXIAR), the largest Russian leasing company OJSC VEB-leasing and Roseximbank – an agent bank for providing government guarantees. It is assumed that each component of the structure would perform its special complementary functions.
EXIAR for example has already provided support for some Russian exporter companies. At the beginning of this year, Russian company RUSELPROM agreed to supply equipment and spare parts for modernizing two Cuban thermal power stations. EXIAR provided insurance coverage against commercial and political risks for this transaction. In its turn, RUSELPROM received funding to supply equipment to at a Russian bank by presenting its insurance agreement with EXIAR as a security for the credit.
Moreover, in spring of 2013, Rostselmash agreed with Kazakh company KazAgroFinance to export several hundred vehicle sets of grain harvesters to be assembled and leased out to local agricultural companies. Russian Rosselkhozbank extended a five-year credit to KazAgroFinance to purchase the grain harvesters. EXIAR insured this credit and it became the first insured long-term credit in Russia’s history for the export of agricultural machinery.
-Vnesheconombank’s subsidiary banks, namely, Prominvestbank, OJS BelVEB are operating in Ukraine and Belarus. We rely on their support in terms of enhancing trade and economic ties with the corresponding partner states. So, almost a full range of export support financial instruments is being formed for Russian supporters. In order to boost the system’s efficiency we are now introducing a one-window principle which will make it possible to significantly speed up procedures for processing applications for funding.
-What export support instruments are being used by Vnesheconombank?
-These are traditional financial products including credits to foreign buyers (export finance) to purchase Russian products, works and services as well as credits to Russian exporters (pre-export finance) to cover expenses on manufacturing products to be further exported.
Vnesheconombank also extends guarantees (due performance guarantees, advance repayment guarantees and others), sureties and other instruments for securing Russian exporters’ obligations to foreign buyers. Vnesheconombank’s wide international cooperation as part of extending export support guarantees allows Russian companies to participate in export projects in countries with high political risks and with objective obstacles to implementing contracts as well as in the countries where Russian commercial banks are not present.
-VEB and Roseximbank are responsible for extending export guarantees. In what way do their corresponding instruments differ? Why is it necessary to receive an export guarantee from VEB and export insurance from EXIAR? What risks do these instruments cover?
-Export guarantee and insurance products offered by Vnesheconombank, Roseximbank and EXIAR are designed to produce a synergetic effect. Vnesheconombank’s guarantees (for example, advance repayment guarantees, tender guarantees and due performance guarantees) are extended to secure Russian exporters’ obligations to foreign buyers. EXIAR’s insurance policies are designed to insure risks of foreign buyers of Russian products from exporters and creditors, for example, from Vnesheconombank. Roseximbank’s key function is to act as the agent bank for government guarantees. So, there are three various financial instruments each of which is important for supporting exports of Russian companies.
To what extent is the Bank geared to use best practices of leading foreign development institutions?
-In the course of setting up an exports support system we thoroughly study and analyze international best practices of both economically developed countries and growth-leading economies. In the last decades, they have put in place efficient exports support models in many leading exporter countries. Many foreign best practices prove to be useful for us. Nevertheless, we should not carbon copy foreign models but form an efficient Russian exports support system. Government exports support is regulated internationally that is why Vnesheconombank takes into account WTO and OECD rules upon developing new products.
-What was the reason for establishing an export financing department ?
-Non-raw materials exports are potential growth point and an important factor of diversifying the Russian economy. So, it’s not surprising that this line of activity became important for our development institution. In 2007, industrial exports support was included in Vnesheconombank’s main lines of activity. We have done a lot in the past years. The Bank participated in implementing major export projects, above all, in power engineering industry, aerospace sector and defense industrial complex. The Bank’s export finance portfolio amounted to 83 billion rubles as of late July 2013. From 2007 to July of 2013, the Bank has extended guarantees worth 164 billion rubles in favor of foreign purchasers of Russian high technology products. Nevertheless, we hope that in the coming years we’ll be able to significantly increase funding volumes.
Our own and foreign business experience shows that export finance is a very specific line of banking acclivity. So, the establishment of a separate export support department is designed to concentrate sectoral, country and financial competence on efficient comprehensive support for Russian exports.
-Could you tell us in more detail about the department’s mission and objectives?
-Vnesheconombank’s new special structural subdivision, namely, the Export Financing Department was established only in May of 2013. Its main functions are above all to extend export credits and guarantees and secure Vnesheconombank’s participation in projects implemented by Russian companies abroad. The Department is also responsible for exports support activities in Vnesheconombank Group. We are developing a range of financial products that are supposed to provide efficient support and level playing field in funding Russian exporters on highly competitive foreign markets.
-One of the Department’s main objectives is to support aviation industry’s exports. What sort of support mechanism is it? How is it going to be applied?
A key instrument is target funding of foreign purchasers of Russian aircraft. We often use credit-leasing schemes as a structural financing instrument.
Vnesheconombank’s important advantage in this sort of projects is its capability to extend long-term credits as well as its competence and experience in financing exports in various parts of the world. All these factors allow us to be a reliable and long-term partner for Russian exporters.
-Would you tell us about supporting Russian aviation industry’s exports? Are other foreign and Russian banks going to participate in funding supplies of Russian aircraft?
-At present, Vnesheconombank is considering a whole number of applications for funding export supplies of aircraft to Latin American, African and Asian countries. I’m sure that in the near future I’ll be able to tell you about new specific transactions.
In a number of cases we work together with other leading Russian and foreign financing institutions as part of participating in implementing some planned projects.
Providing support for Russian aviation industry’s exports is one of our top-priority lines of activity. A whole number of promising and ambitious projects are being implemented in this sector. We are actively cooperating with Russia’s aviation industry in securing reliable and stable funding of Russian exports and we’ll be happy to expand the cooperation.
Infrastructure a priori is not very attractive for commercial banks as infrastructure development projects are riskier and designed for long periods. So, VEB expects that regulatory limitations on raising financial resources to fund infrastructure projects will be eased.
Vnesheconombank sets yield benchmarks for the first echelon of ruble denominated bond issues and it is among the ten largest Russian Eurobond issuers. Why are market bond issues so important for VEB, isn’t it too risky to expand non-residents’ presence on the government bond market and in capital of state-run banks and to what extent is interface of the Russian export support system user-friendly? We are talking about all this with Vnesheconombank Deputy Chairman Alexandr Ivanov.
- In late July, Vnesheconombank placed a debut stock market ruble-denominated bond issue. How did the placement go? Why did you choose this instrument?
- The placement was a success. Upon opening a bid book we planned to borrow 10 billion rubles for a period of three years but the demand exceeded 50 billion and we decided to double the placement volume. The borrowing cost also proved to be pretty favorable. Now, the bond issue is being traded at a yield rate of 7.7 percent per annum, with a premium of about 160 basis points in relation to MinFin bonds of similar maturity and this is a very good indicator – one of the best for corporate bonds of first echelon issuers.
These stock market bonds’ specific feature is that they have higher liquidity which is determined by a whole number of covenants (terms under which bondholders can start to negotiate early repayment with the issuer) attractive for investors and ensuring the bonds’ better protection. Moreover, we envisaged a whole number of additional obligations on information disclosure.
- Did non-residents show interest in the bond issue?
- Foreign investors’ aggregate demand was about 7 billion rubles. This is a good result as earlier investors used to enter into our ruble-denominated bonds in homeopathic quantities – as a rule through their subsidiary Russian banks just as part of treasury operations. There are plans that this year, non-residents will be able to purchase Russian issuers’ bonds through trade and settlement systems Clearstream and Euroclear. As a result the bond market liquidity in any case liquidity of first echelon bonds increased significantly - already on expectations of new investors. And we could feel it in the course of the bond placement.
- I have been recently struck by the Central Bank’s information: by mid-year a proportion of non-residents in MinFin ruble-denominated bonds reached 30 percent.
- Didn’t you expect this?
- Foreigners had a similar proportion in GKO in 1997 on the eve of the Asian crisis and the rapid shedding of bonds by non-residents was a trigger for a default on government bonds in August of 1998. Aren’t we making the same mistake now? Aren’t we excessively liberalizing access to our market?
- In fact, there are no grounds for panic. First, the scales of the markets are incomparable. GKO’s volume in circulation was 40 percent of GDP on the peak of the market, now, the OFZ portfolio is 3.3 trillion rubles and this is about 5 percent of GDP. Second, the state of the federal budget and government finances is significantly better today than in 1997 and especially in 1998.
- Doesn’t it embarrass you that 44 percent of Sberbank’s shares are in non-residents’ hands?
- No, it does not. Sberbank’s controlling stake is still in the Central Bank’s hands. Key decisions are taken with due regard to the principal shareholder’s opinion.
- VTB can boast of its anchor investors. By the way, its aggregate proportion of non-residents in the capital is very substantial – more than 30 percent.
- Long-term foreign investors are among shareholders both in Sberbank and VTB. But as you know market is market. Nowadays capital has no borders, it flows in and out. But I am sure that for the time being system-forming banks should be controlled by the state. And the fact that foreign investors enter into capital of our companies and our banks is linked not only to risks. As a rule they bring best practices of corporate governance and tend to discipline management.
- It’s interesting that the format of assuming Russian risks by foreigners is changing. The crisis reduced substantially the total number of banks and banks’ stakes controlled by foreigners on our market. At the same time, non-residents’ presence in capital of the largest state banks and in the aggregate portfolio of government bonds has increased dramatically. Instead of enjoying imperfections of the Russian market and business climate you can purchase a few OFZs of Sberbank and VTB by clicking mouse several times without leaving your office in Luxemburg or in London and live greatly.
- There is such a tendency now. Nevertheless, a number of Central and Eastern European countries where all commanding heights had been in foreigners’ hands since the 1990s suffered a lot more in the crisis. They experienced a colossal capital outflow through banks into their maternal markets, lending and especially long-term lending imploded. So, I would describe the structure of our banking system as a balanced one. Foreigners have access to our capital markets through subsidiary banks and there are no limitations on their capital movements but at the same time, the state sector is playing a dominant role.
- Let’s move back to VEB. What’s your program of market borrowings in the current year?
-In the year 2013, a target volume of raising financial resources is to remain at last year’s level and is about 7-8 billion dollars. About a half of this sum is public debt: eurobonds and local bonds and the other part is comprised of non-public instruments such as syndicated loans, bilateral credits, trade and tied financing. Cost of raising resources plays a top-priority role for a bank for development that is why a choice of raising funds and their volume depends largely on market conditions.
Since the start of 2013, we have already raised funds in the amount of about of 3 billion dollars. We have recently registered two issues of domestic euro-denominated bonds at the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange. This is a debut issue on the Russian market. We saw a pretty strong demand among domestic investors for such instruments. Now we are working actively with the Moscow Exchange on implementing this project and conducting consultations with market players. We hope to make a bond placement until the end of the year.
- What are VEB’s long-term target bond funding indicators?
- We plan to bring a share of market bond borrowings to one third of a total volume of resources to be raised. This objective is to be achieved in the longer term.
Regrettably, as opposed to many foreign development institutions, Vnesheconombank has to operate in a rather complicated situation. Under the Law on the Bank for Development, VEB does not have the state’s guarantees for its obligations. Moreover, VEB is not funded from the budget on a regular basis for corporate-wide purposes – there are only target deposits of the Central Bank, the Finance Ministry and the National Wealth Fund tied to a number of specific projects. VEB is also barred from raising deposits from natural persons and companies except those cases when this is done under investment projects. So, as far as raising funds are concerned, VEB has to operate on the market and compete for financial resources with other development institutions as well as with Russian banks and corporations.
- And with the Finance Ministry to some extent?
- Our Bank is a responsible borrower and so we coordinate our activity on the public debt market with the Finance Ministry.
- How do you do it?
- These are regular working consultations on the phone. There is no formal intervention by the Government in VEB’s operational activity.
- At the July conference organized by VEB in Moscow, head of Brazil’s Development Bank BNDES Luciano Coutinho said that in the current complicated global macroeconomic situation it was development banks’ bonds with government guarantees that were becoming the most important instruments for long-term funding.
- I’m glad that people from different countries think in the same way and say the same things being aware that in the period of crisis investments in infrastructure and their long-term funding are very important. These are taxes, employment. This is a quality of people’s life. This is caring for future generations.
- Absence of a sovereign guarantee for loans is really a serious limitation, isn’t it? If it was removed what would it change for you?
- All is pretty simple: we could increase borrowing volumes substantially and reduce borrowing costs. Although our Bank is a quasi-sovereign borrower without the state’s formal guarantees our bond placement costs are a lot more expensive than those of the Russian Finance Ministry.
- The QE-3 program is expected to be phased out in the U.S. How will it influence the international bond borrowing market?
- These expectations are already exerting pressure on US treasuries quotes. Ten-year treasuries’ yields have increased by more than 40 percent from 1.8 to 2.8 percent per annum from May till now. Increased yields of American government bonds lead to increased yields of dollar denominated eurobonds of other market players on international debt markets.
The factual phase-out of the QE-3 program might have a short-term negative effect in capital markets and market for divestiture of risky assets including Russian debt instruments and, above all, of second and third echelon issuers. We haven’t seen so far any significant direct threats to Vnesheconombank’s borrowing costs.
Moreover, it should be noted that the reason for discussing phase-out dates of the stimulus program was a gradual recovery of the U.S. economy including labor and real estate markets. In the future positive macroeconomic data from the U.S. could provide support for capital markets. Moreover U.S. FRS basis rates will remain at previous historical minimal rates (0.0-0.25 per annum until unemployment rate in the country goes down to 6.5% (the current rate is 7.6 percent) thus limiting further growth in debt instruments’ yields.
- Despite this positive information, Russian banks might use the tightening of monetary policy in the U.S. as an excuse for increasing credit rates for corporate borrowers?
- We shouldn’t rule out this scenario. To a certain degree this will be a natural selection however cruel it might sound. In the situation of more limited access to financial resources only competitive projects and borrowers will survive. Financial discipline, balance quality and quality of corporate governance will come to the forefront.
But I’d like to stress that we shouldn’t approach infrastructure projects with standard market requirements. Infrastructure a priori is not very attractive for commercial banks as infrastructure development projects are riskier and designed for long periods. So, we hope that in the situation of hardening access to liquidity the state and regulators would step up national development institutions’’ activity. As to VEB we hope that our regulatory resource limitations will be eased.
- Let me ask you a question in the fantasy genre. You tend to place bonds; they are normal quasi-sovereign instruments even without formal government guarantees. Why don’t you use pension funds of the so-called “undecideds”? VEB is responsible for managing these funds as a state trust management company. These funds are reliable instruments; they are no less reliable than for example RZHD infrastructure bonds in which VEB has recently started to invest pension funds.
- In principle, I see no problems here. I asked my colleague this question. It would be logical for VEB as a main bank responsible for funding infrastructure in Russia to use pension funds to this end on the terms of recoverability and serviceability. But this issue is in the legal domain. We’ll have to deal with a classical conflict of interests – one and the same institution will combine functions of issuer and investor.
Nevertheless, the Bank’s investment declaration as a state trust management company is being expanded. Today we are allowed to invest not only in government bonds but also in corporate bonds.
Moreover, President Putin said that up to a half of the National Wealth Fund’s financial resources (the amount of funds in it was 86.9 billion dollars as of early August) could be used to fund infrastructure projects inside the country. VEB jointly with its subsidiary Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Economic Development Ministry is developing a mechanism that would make it possible to use financial resources of the National Wealth Fund to finance these projects with minimal risks.
- Last year the Export Insurance Agency of Russia (EXIAR) incorporated in Vnesheconombank Group started to operate. What results has it achieved as of today?
-The Agency was established in 2011. Since it was established the Agency was designed to create a special regulatory framework to insure export credits against political and commercial risks and to operate in the interests of domestic exporters.
In late December of 2012, Russia’s state guarantee for EXIAR’s obligations was registered with the support of Vnesheconombank for a period of twenty years. Factually, it was at the time when EXIAR became a full-fledged state export credit agency of Russia.
As of today, export support has been provided for more than 30 projects and contracts for a total amount of more than 16 billion rubles and detailed preparatory work is being performed with regard to 20 projects worth about 70 billion rubles.
In the current year EXIAR has supported a transaction on supplying sections of steam turbine condensers to Ukraine. Moreover, the Agency covered risks under an export credit to fund supplies of Rostselmash products to Kazakhstan. I’d also like to highlight a project to insure supplies of equipment and spare parts manufactured by concern Ruselprom and intended for modernizing Cuban thermal power stations.
- Can we talk about synergy of EXIAR, Roseximbank and Vnesheconombank itself in supporting Russian non-raw materials exports? Are there all necessary export promotion institutions in Russia?
- In my opinion we have now created all necessary components of the export support system. Vnesheconombank is responsible for extending export credits and guarantees. We have recently established a special export funding department which is fully involved in performing this function. We have EXIAR responsible for issuing insurance policies for export credits. And guarantees not only for VEB’s credits but also for credits of all Russian and foreign banks which are ready to fund Russian exports. There is Roseximbank responsible for extending government export guarantees as the agent for the Finance Ministry. There is VEB-leasing, a leading leasing company in Russia owned by Vnesheconombank. It participates in a number of major international leasing transactions.
But there is a problem that we are addressing now. Here I mean segmentation of export promotion institutions, and the absence of a clear-cut interface for domestic export companies. We decided to create an interface in the format of “one window” for any exporter irrespective of its size and range of export products to be able to turn to Vnesheconombank’s specially established department. Then its application will be directed for its intended purpose depending on the exporter’s needs and specific activity and the exporer will be able to gain access to a whole range of export support products we have at our disposal now.
Vnesheconombank Chairman Vladimir Dmitriev’s Interview to the TV Channel Russia 24
Vnesheconombank’s Conference “Sustainable Growth through Long-Term Investments” is taking place in Moscow. The Conference’s main theme will also top the agenda of a forthcoming G20 summit. My colleague Maria Efremova is present at the conference today. Hullo Maria! I’m giving the floor to you.
CORR: Hullo Kseniya. Today’s key theme is funding long-term investments. Vnesheconombank Chairman Vladimir Dmitriev is ready to answer our questions. Vladimir Alexandrovich, Good afternoon. Vnesheconombank is supposed to start participating in implementing major infrastructure projects. How much money in your opinion will be needed to fund these projects?
Vladimir DMITRIEV, Vnesheconombank Chairman: We are already actively involved in funding infrastructure projects and here I mean not only major projects being implemented by RZHD and the Federal Grid Company (FGC) but also projects in housing and communal services infrastructure, telecommunications and other economic sectors that form infrastructure. They include the construction of airports and toll motorways where we cooperate closely both with Russian and foreign financing institutions. As far as projects that are to be funded through using pension funds are concerned we intend to invest about 100-200 billion rubles by way of purchasing bonds to be issued by such companies as RZHD and FGC.
CORR: Vladimir Alexandrovich, some say that not only infrastructure projects are appropriate for long-term money. And what other alternative instruments are in your opinion also available?
Vladimir DMITRIEV: If we are talking about instruments and sources of funding long-term investments there is no doubt that pension money is not sufficient and we should involve both private investments and funds owned by the state and here I mean the National Wealth Fund. This issue is hotly debated now and we suggest that Vnesheconombank should act as an operator of the National Wealth Fund’s financial resources which could be used to fund various projects in the Russian economy. As far as private investments are concerned, I would like to highlight the Russian Direct Investment Fund which is now together with its partners and direct investment funds, private and sovereign funds creating appropriate infrastructure to make investments in the Russian economy. It has already closed transactions for a total amount of 2 billion dollars and reached a desired proportion between Russian money and raised foreign investments, which is now 1 to 5. This is a good indicator. And funds raised from private investors and sovereign funds are used to finance economic sectors attractive for foreign investors. They include medicine, public health care, the stock market, the timber processing industry, telecommunications and a number of other sectors of our economy.
CORR: The Conference’s participants are from many various countries. What Russian instruments and projects are they interested in?
Vladimir DMITRIEV: It’s important to keep in mind that as rule private investors seek to invest in reliable and highly profitable projects. But sometimes it’s not easy to achieve a combination of reliability and high profitability. So, we offer to share risks and co-invest Russian and foreign money in those projects that might be attractive for foreign investors and that are very important in terms of developing our economic sectors such as infrastructure and also those related to our growing middle class as well as public health care, medicine, the retail sector and a whole number of other sectors. By the way, social infrastructure is of interest too. And here I mean construction of pre-school child care institutions, fitness centers where a whole number of Russian investors are ready to cooperate with Vnesheconombank and regional authorities to invest their financial resources on a long-term basis.
CORR: And what can you say about projects that Vnesheconombank is implementing with other countries?
Vladimir DMITRIEV: So far, we have been working pretty successfully on a bilateral basis cooperating closely with national development banks and international financing institutions. For example, our cooperation with Germany’s development bank resulted in establishing several investment funds. Quite recently we have signed a declaration on establishing another investment fund. And we hope that his fund will amount to at least 500 billion dollars and will be used to provide support for Russian small and medium-sized enterprises. So, as opposed to our previous practices we are going not only to extend credits to small and medium-sized enterprises through our subsidiary bank but also invest funds of Russian and international investors in small and medium-sized enterprises to increase their capitalization and make them more attractive for financing institutions. I would also like to stress our cooperation with the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Together with the World Bank we set up a long-term investment fund to make investments in Russian regional banks and we put in place a similar scheme with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This example shows clearly that Russia is open for foreign investments and that there are sectors in the Russian economy that are attractive for foreign investors.
CORR: And my last question is about a BRICS bank. Is it being established?
Vladimir DMITRIEV: I’m not the right person for this question. But as there is an interbank consortium within BRICS, which is comprised of national development banks, we and our partners from BRICS believe that it’s better not to establish a new institution but to additionally capitalize national development banks for them to raise financial resources from capital markets and participate jointly in implementing projects that are of interest for BRICS member countries.
Vnesheconombank Chairman Vladimir Dmitriev’s Interview to the TV Channel Russia 24
HOST: Good afternoon.
Vladimir DMITRIEV, Vnesheconombank Chairman: Good afternoon.
HOST: I’m glad to greet you again at the Petersburg International Economic Forum. Vnesheconombank always comes to this Forum for real projects and real agreements. And I hope this time you have as many projects and agreements as usual
Vladimir DMIRIEV: You’re absolutely right. Actually, we view the Forum as a place and as an opportunity to sum up certain results of our work and at the same time look ahead among other things by way of signing agreements. We have already signed some agreements and we’ll also sign agreements today and tomorrow.
We’ve already signed an agreement with the Russian Railways. It provides for our joint efforts to promote RZHD to third countries’ markets. Naturally, we’ll use here a whole range of Vnesheconombank’s and its subsidiaries’ capabilities. These include funding and insurance through extending insurance policies to our export insurance agency; this is also the Direct Investment Fund which is also in a position to operate on third countries’ markets.
A quadruple agreement has just been signed by Vnesheconombank, the Administration of the Primorsky Territory, Changi Airport International and the Far East and the Baikal Region Development Fund. The agreement provides for Changi Airport International to increase passenger flow and boost the Vladivostok airport complex’s investment appeal.
We are also planning to sign a very specific agreement. Here I mean development of Yamal’s oil fields – the Yamal LNG project on the construction of a natural gas liquefaction plant. NOVATEK acts as an investor together with French company Total. The agreement will provide for offering financial services to Sovcomflot and Yamal LNG on manufacturing and leasing enhanced ice class vessels to transport liquefied natural gas to third countries’ markets.
Some agreements are basically memorandums of intentions or agreements on cooperation I’d like to single out agreements with the Leningrad region, the Kirov region and the Republic of Tatarstan. They provide for the comprehensive development of territories and Vnesheconombank’s participation in various investment projects in these regions.
HOST: Are you going to present the Development Award as part of this Forum?
Vladimir Dmitriev: Yes, we are, after a plenary session tomorrow. We made an arrangement for presenting this award with Head of the Presidential Administration Sergei Ivanov. A decision on the Development Award was taken last year and during the year we worked on announcing it and receiving applications. To this end, we set up Vnesheconombank’s Expert Council which evaluated applications objectively in four nominations: The Best Project in Industrial Sectors, the Best Infrastructure Project, the Best Project of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Best Project on the Comprehensive Development of Territories. For good reasons I won’t name the names of the winners. But I assure you these are the best projects in these nominations.
HOST: What do you mean by the best investment project? Is it the largest project, the most socially significant one or the most reliable one?
-In our case we evaluate a project not in terms of its size but in terms of its structure, investors’ and local authorities’ participation in it and raising investments from Vnesheconombank and foreign countries. Parameters include a whole number of key indicators of a project’s success.
HOST: Vladimir Alexandrovich if we regard the number and sizes of agreements concluded every year as part of the Petersburg forums as some sort of indicator for the state of economy, what does it show at the moment? Today, German Gref described investment climate as an incomprehensible beast about which nobody knows anything. What can you say about the current investment climate and about how it is changing?
Vladimir DMITRIEV: In this respect, I remember discussions that were held two years ago when a decision on establishing a Russian Direct Investment Fund was being taken. Many experts including well-known specialists tried to convince us that it made no sense to establish such a fund because the investment climate was unfavorable and all the efforts to set up investment funds in Russia together with foreign investment funds and investment banks had been a failure. They believed that our efforts wouldn’t be doomed to success.
A year and a half operation of the Russian Direct Investment Fund showed that foreign direct investment funds as well as sovereign funds are ready to make investments in efficient projects in Russia. And this means that we have such projects in our country. And we have them not only in Central or European part of Russia but also in the Far East. And a good evidence of this is not only the establishment of a Russian-Chinese Investment Fund but also the first transactions with its participation. The fact is that a whole number of regions are flagships in raising investments. Here I can cite Tatarstan, the Ulyanovsk region and the Kaluga region. And we are happy that Vnesheconombank is operating quite actively in the successful regions.
HOST: What can you tell us about events accompanying the investment environment? Here I mean for example reports about forthcoming ruble devaluation. What effects will it have? Might it help domestic producers by improving their export capabilities? Will it encourage economic growth, which is a matter of serious concern now?
Vladimir DMITRIEV: The talk about devaluation is taking place against the backdrop of Russian exporters’ old-time complaints that if you restrain the ruble you restrain Russia’s export potential. But we are not talking about some sort mandatory, compulsory devaluation but about the Central Bank’s commitment to greater liberalization and market fluctuations of the ruble exchange rate without a constraining influence of the Central Bank. And this is not a purely Russian phenomenon. Freeing the ruble exchange rate and its controlled devaluation will play into the hands of Russian exporters and not only those operating in the raw materials sector but also those that can compete on the world’s markets taking advantage of pricing policy. It is important that this free or controlled devaluation should not result in increased inflation rate and other circumstances that in total might have more serious implications on the country’s economy than stimulating export potential.
HOST: And now my last question. There will be a meeting of development institutions of the Group of Twenty. What do you expect of this Forum?
Vladimir DMITRIEV: I’d like to say a few words about the preparatory work done before this coming meeting. This work was carried out by national and regional development institutions, such our partners as Germany’s Bank for Development, the China State Development Bank, our friends from Italy and France, our partners from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asia-Pacific region. We all arrived at a consensus that we can develop both national economies and regional projects only by way of combining development institutions’ global efforts.
Last year, we got together in Luxemburg where we were received by the European Investment Bank. I should say that by that time both the Long-Term Investors Club and the International Development Finance Club were already in place. We offered to hold regular meetings of development institutions as part of the Group of Twenty and invite international financing institutions to attend these meeting in order to work out a common policy and make concerted efforts to develop economies of our countries.
We’ll hold a meeting of leading Development Institutions of the Group of Twenty and financing institutions this July in parallel with a meeting of Group of Twenty finance ministers in a situation when Russia chairs the Group of Twenty and a role of development institutions in the global economy is substantially increasing and everybody is now aware that long-term investments are guarantees for suitable growth. We agreed upon a draft declaration with our Finance Ministry. Our financial officials believe that it is in line with the agenda to be discussed by Group of Twenty finance ministers. So, we’ll be able to help our governments’ to promote sustainable development of our economies.
HOST: I wish you every success. Thank you for your interview.
Vladimir Dmitriev: Thank you.
These are really the best projects in Russia’s modern-day economy
Vnesheconombank Chairman Vladimir Dmitriev about the Development Award contest
-In a day or two Vnesheconombank will for the first present the Development Award to Russia’s best investors. What sort of award is it?
-It might seem that this is a brand new project but we have already been working on it for a year and a half. Vladimir Putin – the then Prime Minister and the Chairman of VEB’s Supervisory Board backed the idea of instituting the Development Award to be presented for the best investment projects in the Russian economy.
-How did this idea come into being?
-As a Bank for Development VEB is assigned a complicated task of developing and supporting industrial, infrastructure and innovation projects. It’s very difficult to be involved in the comprehensive development of economy even in a stable situation on the world’s markets and the more so at times of global crises. We keep on working, investing, building and there is always talk around that the Russian economy is skidding, stagnating and the investment climate is getting worse year by year. And we on our part can see quite a different situation – we receive applications for credits to fund new projects almost on a daily basis.
Under these circumstances an idea of instituting the Development Award came into being.
-Is this award intended for VEB’s borrowers.
-Not at all. If it was intended for our borrowers a picture would be unobjective and incomplete. We decided not to limit anybody. Any legal entity could submit an application for the award.
-Did you receive many applications?
We had been receiving applications for several months and we didn’t expect that there would be so many applicants. All in all we received 221 applicant projects so our contest committee had to work very hard to make a short list. It was extremely difficult to make a choice – a lot of projects proved to be top-quality.
-How many nominations does the award have? And what criteria did you use to identify them?
- We decided to identify them on the basis of Vnesheconombank’s Memorandum on Financial Policies. We have our top-priority lines of activity and we have been operating in accordance with them for already six years. We have chosen four nominations of the Development Award out of them: “the Best Infrastructure Project”, “the Best Project in Industrial Sectors”, “the Best Project on the Comprehensive Development of Territories”, “the Best Project of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)”.
-I’m sure that small and medium-sized enterprises submitted the least number of applications.
-You would be surprised but out of 221 applications 78 were submitted by SMEs. This is evidence that all the talk about an unfavorable investment climate in Russia and the actual absence of small and medium-sized enterprises is no more than a banal stereotype.
-Who evaluated the applications received?
-Our contest committee was comprised of Russia’s best economic experts. These are employees from the RF Government Office, heads of line ministries and members of VEB’s Expert Council as well as our colleagues from other state corporations. All in all there are 28 people. And only ten members are from our Bank’s management. (see the detailed information about the contest committee’s composition on the Bank’s site http://www.veb.ru/ ).
-Who are the winners of the contest?
-We’ll reveal their names at an awarding ceremony at the Petersburg International Economic Forum. The Award’s status is very high. I can say now that our Supervisory Board has already approved the winners. The level of all four projects is very high. And although it might seem immodest I should say that these are really the best projects in Russia’s modern-day economy. I hope that in the future investors of such a high level of competence will contend for the Development Award.