Today Italy is one of our most important trade partners in Europe – Vladimir Dmitriev
December 2 2013 14:37
Various events organized by the Russian-Italian Forum-Dialogue within the Framework of Civil Societies took place on November 26, in the course of the Russian-Italian interstate consultations headed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. Established in 2004, the Russian-Italian long-term project has become an important instrument of bilateral cooperation. Vnesheconombank Chairman Vladimir Dmitriev told ITAR-TASS about results achieved and prospects for future cooperation. He is the Co-Chairman of the Russian-Italian Forum-Dialogue for the Russian side.
-Vladimir Alexandrovich, Russia and Italy are tied by long-time trade and diplomatic relations. How would you assess the level of cooperation between our countries?
-Today, Italy is one of our most important partners in Europe. In terms of its trade turnover with Russia which amounted to 45.8 billion dollars last year it ranks third after the Netherlands and Germany. Almost 45 years ago Italy was the first country to have concluded a long-term agreement on gas supplies from the USSR. And now Italy is the second largest consumer of Russian gas. The Italian Concern Eni is working closely with Gazprom on the Southern Stream Gas Transport project and it is also cooperating with Rosneft company on the shelves of the Barents and Black seas. Enel concern owns almost 70% stake in OGK-5 company. Finmeccanica concern is a leading partner of Russian companies in the high-technology sector. It implements projects in the aerospace sector, aircraft construction as well as in modernizing railway transport, postal and telecommunications. CJSC HeliVert is operating efficiently. HeliVert is a joint venture of Helicopters of Russia and AgustaWestland. They have already assembled the first six helicopters. JSC Sukhoi Civil Aircraft is cooperating with Alenia Aermacchi in manufacturing the Superjet-100 regional aircraft. The backlog of orders is more than 200 airliners. Today, about 500 Italian companies are operating in Russia and cooperation is expanding actively.
-Could you tell us about Vnesheconombank’s cooperation with its Italian partners?
-I’m happy to note that the Bank participates in many projects I’ve listed. Our partners in these projects are Italy’s financing institutions. We signed an agreement on cooperation with Italy’s credit agency SACE and France’s agency Coface to form an integrated system of funding international sales of Superjet-100 aircraft. The agreement provides for using a credit-leasing scheme for funding export supplies of the Superjet-100 to foreign customers against insurance coverage of SACE and Coface.
“Cooperation between Russia and Italy is advancing in all directions”, said Russian President Vladimir Putin. In my opinion one of the most successful projects in which Vnesheconombank participated is the construction of the Tobolsk-Polymer gas-chemical complex which is the largest one in Europe. The project was implemented with the participation of Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and SACE.
We also entered into agreement with Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and UBI Banca ScpA on providing financial support for small and medium-sized enterprises for an amount of 150 million euros.
Today, VEB Group is comprised of about twenty subsidiaries, namely, banks, investment, leasing, engineering and project companies - the Direct Investment Fund, the Export Credit Agency of Russia, regional development corporations and consulting representative offices in the regions.
This set of institutions allows us to create investment-financing platforms to implement not only individual projects but also programs of comprehensive development of territories and research production clusters.
-What agreements did you sign within the framework of the Russian-Italian Forum-Dialogue?
-In Trieste we signed several agreements with such Italian financing institutions as Mediobanca and export insurance agency SACE as well as a Letter of Intent with company CO.MO.I. GROUP SA on developing a new mechanism for funding Vnesheconombank customers under contracts with Italian suppliers.
-These are not the first agreements between VEB and Italian banks?
-In fact, I’d like to recollect one of them - an agreement on cooperation with Italian banking group UBI Banca on the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. It provided for UBI Banca to extend credit facilities worth up to 50 million euros. For a number of reasons this agreement’s implementation was suspended.
“Cooperation with Russia is a guarantee for success for Italy’s economy”, said Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. In order to give a new impetus for cooperation Vnesheconombank offers to discuss the possibility for UBI Banca to enter into capital of an International Fund to Support Entrepreneurship that is being established now. The Fund is being established together with Germany’s KfW Banking Group with the participation of the European Investment Bank. It is designed to support Russian medium-sized enterprises that demonstrate good growth dynamics. Business is to be funded primarily through debt instruments.
The Fund’s is to be comprised of several tranches with different risk and profitability levels. Vnesheconombank is to invest funds in the most risky tranche thus making it possible to protect investors of senior tranches in case of losses. Taking into account the Fund’s conservative policy and strict requirements for investees, it is safe to say that investments in a senior tranche will be almost risk-free.
-In 2014, Italy is to assume the EU presidency. And in this respect does VEB have plans to expand cooperation with its Italian partners?
-We intend to step up our efforts to fill the Forum-Dialogue with real business content.
In particular, we can resume the activity of a regular Russian-Italian Business-Dialogue. It could be held as part of the already functioning conference “The Russian Economic and Financial Forum in Italy”.
Representatives of big business participate actively in a dialogue devoted to issues of economic cooperation between Russia and Italy but representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises are less active. An International Forum devoted to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises is to be held in Moscow on April 23-24, 2014. I think that in the course of this Forum we’ll be able hold a round-table discussion on Russian-Italian efforts to support small and medium-sized enterprises.
Interviewed by Alxei Bukalov, Vera Shcherbakova.
/Corr. ITAR-TASS, Rome/
Vnesheconombank Deputy Chairman – Member of the Board Sergei Lykov’s Interview to Prime News Agency
Vnesheconombank Deputy Chairman Sergei Lykov told in his interview to Prime Agency how the dynamic growth of the Bank’s loan portfolio influenced Vnesheconombank Group’s indicators in the first half of 2013, as well as in which sectors companies received the largest volume of credits and if VEB’s main borrowers are state corporations.
-How would you assess VEB’s performance for the 1st half of 2013?
-As a whole, I should say that despite the extremely negative situation abroad and known problems in the Russian economy Vnesheconombank Group was able to maintain stable development rates. Its consolidated financial statements, that is, statements with due regard to its subsidiary and affiliated institutions including foreign ones show that assets increased by 204 billion rubles from the start of 2013 or almost by 7%. This is higher than the growth in assets of the entire Russian banking sector that amounted to 6.5% for the same period of time. In our capacity of development institution we’re very happy that our loan portfolio increased by 230 billion rubles or by 15.4% (including in project financing where the growth amounted to 148 billion rubles, almost 24%) while in the banking sector as a whole these indicators in non-finance enterprises and institutions amounted to 5.3% and 13.7% - for natural entities. The proportion of credits to customers in Vnesheconombank Group’s assets increased from 51% to 55% for the first half of 2013.
-What economic sectors does Vnesheconombank regard as the most important in terms of extending credits?
-It’s well-known that the Bank’s main principles and lines of activity are set forth in the federal law “On the Bank for Development” and the Memorandum on its Financial Policies. Vnesheconombank’s subsidiaries are commercial institutions but their activities are closely related to addressing tasks that are set before Vnesheconombank. These tasks include overcoming infrastructure constraints, modernizing and developing non-raw materials economy, stimulating innovations, exports and implementing other projects.
In the first half of this year the Bank for Development played a major role in Vnesheconombank Group’s loan portfolio growth. Its proportion in the total volume of growth was almost 76% but I’d also like to underline excellent performance of such members of the Group as OJSC VEB-Leasing, its portfolio increased by almost 21.53% to 214 billion rubles as well as OJSC Belvnesheconombank, its portfolio increased by 23.3% to 47 billion rubles.
As far as economic sectors are concerned most credits were extended to construction and production sectors including mechanical engineering and defense industrial complex – 846.4 billion rubles (taking into account formed reserves) an increase of more than 23% for the first half of the year. Next in terms of growth rates are transport (18.1%), raw materials industry (19.3%), telecommunications (8%) science and education (almost 41.15%) but unfortunately the volume is still small).
Somehow it is believed that Vnesheconombank’s main borrowers are state-controlled companies. Vnesheconombank Group’s financial statements show that this is not the case. Almost 1552.2 billion rubles (taking reserves into account) were extended to private companies, that is, almost 80% of the whole loan portfolio.
-You’ve mentioned reserves formed against extended credits. What are their volumes and dynamics?
-As a whole in the first half of 2013, credit depreciation reserves increased by 21.1 billion rubles from 193.4 billion rubles to 214.5 billion rubles or by 10.9%. We view this increase as more than normal keeping in mind the dynamic growth rate of our loan portfolio as well as the fact that investment projects account for the greater part of this portfolio. Here I mean projects that are not attractive for commercial and financial sectors. During the first half of the year reserves ratio changed insignificantly from 11.4% to 11.1%.
-How did Vnesheconombank Group manage to ensure such a high growth rate of assets and loan portfolio?
-Vnesheconombank Group is making strenuous efforts to diversify its sources of financial resources. There’s no doubt that the state provides a great deal of support. Owing to subsidies received from the Russian Finance Ministry in the total amount of 77 billion rubles (62 billion rubles - for forming the Russian Direct Investment Fund and 15 billion rubles - for implementing top-priority projects in the Far East and in the Baikal region) the Group’s capital was increased to 599.5 billion rubles. I’d like to say that at the start of the 3d quarter the state made another financial contribution to Vnesheconombank’s capital in the amount of 4.068 billion rubles with Rostelecom’s shares.
VEB raised more funds from the Bank of Russia through using REPO transactions with securities in Vnesheconombank’s portfolio. As a result the debt to the Russian Government and the Bank of Russia increased by 33.1 billion rubles (+3.4%) to 1.015 trillion rubles. The Bank made strenuous efforts to expand volumes of financial resources raised on foreign and domestic capital markets. The amount of Vnesheconombank’s and its subsidiary banks’ and companies’ debt securities increased by 100.1 billion rubles (+25.7% from the start of the year) to 489.1 billion rubles. During this period the amount of funds raised from OECD credit institutions increased by 75.02 billion rubles (+28.0%) to 341.5 billion rubles. As a result the total amount of raised financial resources in the 1st half of 2013 increased by 192 billion rubles (+8.4%) and was 2.469 trillion rubles.
Thus, Vnesheconombank managed to raise 3.2 rubles for each ruble invested in its capital. The raised funds were used for modernizing the economy.
-As Vnesheconombank is a state corporation, that is, a nonprofit institution, generating profits is not an end in itself for it. Does Vnesheconombank continue to operate on a break-even principle?
-If we perform an analysis through comparing data for the first half of 2013 and the first half of 2012 on the basis of average chronological balance indicators we can see that profits went down from 21.6 billion rubles to 0.8 billion rubles. The main reasons are pretty objective: this is additional formation of reserves (and the reason for it is quite obvious – a sharp increase in the amount of investment projects in the Bank’s loan portfolio) and negative dynamics in foreign currency revaluation of balance sheets, the amount of balance decreased by 7 billion rubles for a comparable period of the last year.
And I’d like note that net interest income amounted to 46.7 billion rubles - an increase of 8 billion rubles (+20.8%) from the same period in the last year. Net interest margin remained stable at a level of 3.4%. The main reason for it was the growth of interest incomes to117.6 billion rubles due to the increased volume of the loan portfolio. Expenses also increased by 11.6 billion rubles (+19.5%) to 71 billion rubles. The growth in expenses was influenced by increased volume of raised funds and a certain increase in fund-raising rate from 6% in the first half of 2012 to 6.1% in the first half of 2013. In this respecrt it should be noted that Vnesheconombank’s capacity to raise financial resources is limited compared to major commercial banks as they can raise deposits from legal and natural entities and use balances of these accounts to conduct active transactions.
As of today the market for sea and river vessel leasing accounts for an insignificant percentage in the Russian leasing services market. Its share in the new business of leasing companies was a little more than 1.5% in 2012. This is a bit less than in 2011. The amount of new transactions in the water transport segment was about 20 billion rubles last year and it fell insignificantly.
The reason for this state of affairs is a rather complicated financial situation faced both by customers of water vessels and their manufacturers. This segment is rather narrow and specialized. State support measures are not so far in line with the current needs. We have the Program of Developing Leasing of Russian-Made Sea and River Vessels but the scale of its implementation is far from sufficient. The United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) is the operator of this Program. Under the Program USC extends funds to leasing companies participating in vessel leasing transactions at a refinancing rate of the Central Bank for a period of up to ten years. But a unique feature of vessel leasing is that a payback period is about 20-30 years and this exceeds significantly leasing contracts duration. In practice, they address this problem in the following way. Throughout a whole validity period of a leasing agreement monthly payments affordable for the customer are made so that a purchase payment in the long run amounts to about a half of a vessel’s value. On expiry of a leasing period a leasing agreement might be restructured or a lessee might raise a bank credit from which a purchase payment is made. Theoretically, after making a purchase payment a vessel which becomes the property of a lessee might be sold under a redemption leasing scheme, that is, a leasing company might repurchase this vessel from a customer and lease it out again to the same lessee.
Kommersant “Leasing”. Annex
The aircraft-leasing market is one of the most capital-intensive and dynamically developing markets. In 2012, the amount of new business in this segment was about 107 billion rubles. It increased by about 22% from a year ago. A specific feature of aviation leasing in Russia is a high concentration of the market. We can name five companies that are systematically involved in aviation leasing: VEB-Leasing, VTB-Leasing, Sberbank Leasing, the State Transport Leasing Company (STLC) and Ilyushin Finance Co. (IFC), with other companies conducting only individual transactions. Competition is developing between the first three companies. As far as STLC and IFC are concerned they occupy more specific niches working with regional aviation. Limitedness of the market is caused by the fact that companies can raise cheap long-term money. For objective reasons a small company can’t raise money more cheaply than a large one, it loses price competition, so, competition is bound to increase between the largest companies. It’s not a secret that now many major banks have excessive liquidity and it’s profitable for them to fund aviation business. Nevertheless, a new major player is unlikely to appear in this market.
A strong tendency in the development of the aviation leasing is the introduction of operating leasing. Even three years ago it was not possible to talk with Russian leasing companies about this sort of leasing. And now leading players are already ready to form a certain share of their portfolio in this segment. Operating leasing as opposed to financial leasing provides for an airline to return aircraft to a leasing company upon expiry of a leasing agreement. The accumulated experience and market realities make it possible for the largest leasing companies to operate using this scheme , the more so, this scheme is in demand by airlines and is suited for selling products of Russia’s aviation industry, the secondary market of which has not been so far established
Changes introduced in Regulation №1212 regulate the practice of extending subsidies for Russian aviation companies to compensate some of their expenses on leasing payments for aircraft leased out to them for domestic regional and local airborne transportation. Due to introduced changes, since early August of 2013, the Regulation has been applicable to domestic aircraft An-148 and Sukhoi SuperJet 100. They received a quota of 30% of funds under the subsidizing program. These changes are expected to increase demand for Russian-made aircraft by Russian airlines and this in its turn will stimulate aircraft makers. Another important change is that unitary state enterprises can also become participants in the leasing subsidizing program and this will increase the number of potential operators of Russian-made aircraft.
But if we assess the changes from a position of a leasing company we can say that not everything is so rosy. First, leasing transactions on aircraft are substantially extended in time that is why financial indicators of a potential lessee and its capacity to fulfill its obligations under a leasing agreement within a whole period of this agreement’s validity period play a key role in taking a decision on leasing out an aircraft. Unfortunately, nowadays there are very few Russian airlines with acceptable indicators. An airline’s readiness to make an advance payment in the amount of 10-20% is sure to have a positive impact on terms and conditions of a leasing transaction but at the same time will not be a decisive factor in making a decision on conducting a transaction with an individual lessee.
As far as foreign-made aircraft are concerned the situation is better because a leasing company can place risk on a leasing subject due to its sufficient liquidity on the secondary market and a possibility to determine its residual value. As far as such new Russian-made aircraft as Sukhoi SuperJet 100 are concerned we can’t apply these mechanisms as they have never been sold on the secondary market due to the small number of manufactured aircraft and the recent launch of their production as this makes it impossible to make projections with regard to their residual value.
Second, subsidies are made available provided that a financial leasing agreement has been concluded and this limits significantly the number of potential customers of SSJ100. As the practice shows airlines prefer to close operating leasing transactions with regard to new Russian-made aircraft. Under operating leasing transactions upon expiry of a leasing period a leasing company retains title to an aircraft and the aircraft is to be returned. In such cases an aircraft manufacturer acts as a guarantor of residual value and can repurchase it upon expiry of a leasing period. This is a negative factor for a manufacturer but as it has to promote its products the manufacturer is ready to take an additional burden. Naturally, in time a secondary market will be put in place and these problems will be resolved but in the current market conditions it would be quite appropriate to make the Regulation applicable to operating leasing too.
Third, both leasing companies and airlines call into question a provision of the Regulation that obliges a company that lays claim to a subsidy to start operating an aircraft no later than six months from the date of leasing agreement. Maybe these terms are acceptable for aircraft that are not new and were in operation before but as far as new aircraft are concerned we should increase this period to at least two years – a period needed to manufacture an aircraft.
Vyacheslav Solovjev, OJSC VEB-Leasing Director General
Text: Elena Shmelava
To enhance the development of PPP projects in our country we must make consistent efforts to promote them into the market.
The main problem of developing PPP projects market in our country is not associated with regulatory difficulties but with the absence of administrations’ project activities in this format believes acting Director General of the Federal Project Finance Center, Director of Vnesheconombank’s PPP Directorate Alexandr Bazhenov. He outlined his point of view to Russian Business Gazeta (RBG).
Do you think that PPP can improve the economic situation in the regions?
PPP is not a panacea and a goal in itself. It’s an instrument with the help of which regions and municipalities can address their objectives more efficiently or more qualitatively or more rapidly. Compared with Great Britain, France and Germany we are about five years behind in terms of institutional development. They were quicker to understand PPP’s role as a systematic instrument for performing the state’s duties to develop regions and cities with engaging private business as a partner. PPP projects’ volume as compared with budgetary government and municipal purchases of products and services accounts for 10-15% on average. In Britain for example it was 20%, now it’s about 10%, the largest proportion of more than 30% is in Italy. Russia has a great potential although PPP projects proportion amounted to 5% in individual years. Only few proposed PPP projects were implemented. At the same time regulations providing for the procedure of regions’ participation in forming and implementing PPP projects were approved in 64 regions. This made it possible to set goals and provide his instrument with necessary resources. But we have to learn to use this instrument. The fact that few PPP initiatives are converted into real results demonstrates that the main problem of developing PPP projects market in our country is not associated with regulatory difficulties but with the absence of administrations’ project activities in this format. PPP is regarded as a magic stick – you just announce a project and wait for private businessmen to come and do everything.
Why does this happen?
-There are two reasons for this. PPP is a very intensive, difficult and risky work. At the local level people run risks when they are putting a PPP initiative into effect. At an initial project stage there is an objective risk that a project won’t reach an implementation stage and this is a risk run by people who occupy high-ranking administrative positions and spend budgetary funds to prepare a project in such a format. They risk being punished in case of failure. And at the state administration level the use of this instrument is not really planned and this demonstrates that few financial resources are centrally invested in preparing PPP projects (except for transport sector) (the recent example is the development of the Far East) – not a penny is budgeted by federal and regional executive authorities for preparing projects and holding appropriate tenders for engaging private investors and for supporting municipal authorities for these purposes. And this process should be structured and managed.
How do projects come from regions?
-For our purpose we can divide them into two categories: projects for which we can raise private investments only through public tenders and projects that can be implemented as part of comprehensive development with private investors. In our aggregate portfolio a third of applications account for transport infrastructure projects. They include building by-pass highways, transport networks inside regions, bridges and airports. Comprehensive territory development projects account for 16% of our portfolio they include cluster industrial parks, agro-parks, projects of the Investment Fund, special economic zones, comprehensive development of tourism infrastructure. We believe that the PPP projects market will grow through the development of social infrastructure especially in the public health sector. Housing and communal services might become a major and important market forming projects in environment protection and energy efficiency but this sector is rather poorly regulated and capabilities of municipal budgets to assume risks are institutionally limited.
How long does it take to prepare an investment project?
-One-two years to organize a process of project preparation, the period to prepare a project and up to a year for financial closing. All in all from three to five years. During this period of time authorities, market and budgetary conditions might change and a cycle might be delayed. It also takes a lot of time to agree upon changes in budgetary and tariff policy, allocate and register plots of land and ensure property registration. If government and municipal authorities work like a clockwork, a period from a project conceptual stage to an implementation stage might be reduced to 1.5 years, that is, by two-three times.
What’s the mission and specifics of the Federal Project Finance Center (FPFC)?
-As an operator of Vnesheconombank’s program “Funding Assistance for Urban and Regional Development Projects” FPFC is designed to provide financial support for the most vulnerable stage of investment projects – a concept design stage. We should share risks of forming a project with regional and municipal authorities and be a systemic institution as the Bank for Development. Our mandate covers six sectors within the competence of government authorities: comprehensive development of territories, transport and social infrastructures, energy efficiency, state administration infrastructure. Factually, during the first year of the Program’s implementation our experience in working with regional and urban PPP projects was limited and therefore our capabilities of what risks we could assume were limited too. So, FPFC pursued an extremely conservative policy: it extended loans against security and formed a portfolio of projects to be financed against assignment of rights of claim to constituent entities of the Russian Federation and state corporations. But the main objective was to participate in preparing projects sharing risks with regional and municipal authorities. If a region wants to ensure more efficient, rapid and qualitative economic growth to be able to address social problems than we are supposed to be a welcome partner. For PPP projects to be successful we need expertise and this expertise does not accumulate inside a region. An administration takes a decision on a concession for the largest water channel once in 25 years. This sort of expertise accumulates from region to region within the whole market. So, we must such partners that assume risks associated with feasibility of decisions on addressing issues of regional and urban development. To assume this risk we need a developed market for investors that participate in a project. Now PPP projects categories of investors have formed only in road projects but this is not the case in the housing and communal services and social infrastructure: although many are interested in such projects there are no clear-cut business models that could be replicated from region to region.
There’s a lot of talk about PPP but there are few PPP projects themselves. I’m getting an impression that this mechanism is being imposed from above.
This mechanism is being offered to business but in a bad way. If a PPP project is offered, business can always assess its acceptability in terms of sharing risks and profitability. Business makes money and it has certain target profitability on invested capital. We rely on our expertise when we form and structure projects, optimize risks, chose an appropriate project funding model. And this plays a decisive role. Without addressing this matter we have a fork of the two wrong roads. If you follow the left path you’ll get a private partner without obligations, without competences and without non-budgetary and non-tariff investments. This is similar to the way concessions are developing – there are more than 800 projects but nobody knows who raised what. If you follow the right path you’ll get PPP in form but without obligations on the part of authorities, that is, imposing a burden of social obligations on business without any compensations and perspectives.
What should you do?
To enhance the development of PPP projects in our country we must make consistent efforts to promote them into the market. If a project is profitable investors will be interested to participate. And we should structure it in the right way for it not to prove to be too expensive. Studies show that in case of launching a stable proposal the cost of a risk of participating in funding projects starts to diminish in time. For example, in China development plans provide for putting 25-30 projects on the market per year in certain sectors. And expected profitability on invested capital is pretty high at the beginning, and then in the ensuing years it starts to go down. So, it’s not a matter of money and cost of resources it’s a matter of government infrastructure development policy duration.
The draft federal law on PPP is not clear-cut. Can it really change the situation?
-You might be right. I have a feeling that all separate parts are quite right but in its entirety it’s difficult to understand how it works. There is no doubt a law on PPP will be able to work if it will be based on a certain economic ideology. This law should be considered together with other initiatives of the Economic Development Ministry and Vnesheconombank in particular those on disseminating a model of payment for accessibility to all potential objects of concession agreements and on forming a budgetary source of this payment or payments under PPP agreement s as part of additional incomes of the budgetary system from comprehensive development of territories through a mechanism of the Investment Fund. Then both PPP (greenfield) and concession (brownfield) will be applicable both to commercial projects (with payments from commercial activities) to projects on ensuring universal access to infrastructure (with payments from the budget given linkage with projects on ensuring economic growth) as well as to pension funds and banks. The quality of this activity should be guaranteed by centralized expert examination of proposals made by regional and municipal authorities for justification of using PPP (concessions) compared with state purchases according to a budgetary efficiency criterion as well as proposals for selecting tender criteria to maximize budgetary effect and for justification that a project should be funded by institutional investors on the terms of sharing risks. Centralization of such expert examination should ensure risk management of the budgetary system’s uncontrolled off-balance obligations, given mass use of PPP. Expenses on such expert examination, its quality and mobile adaptation to new regulatory conditions should be jointly guaranteed by institutional investors as part of non-budgetary development of infrastructure.