Exports without risk
Moscow, April 23, 2014
The number of financial instruments to support high-technology companies is on the rise.
Since the second half of 2013, Vnesheconombank has significantly increased its financial support for exports. For example, from the start of 2013to March of 2014, VEB has increased export financing by 3.2 times to 160 billion rubles, the amount of its loan portfolio has increased by more than 8.5 times and the guarantee portfolio – by almost three times. The Bank supported export contracts of Russian enterprises in the total amount of 728.3 billion rubles. At present, the Bank is considering several dozens of large and medium export projects, with the Bank’s expected participation share totaling more than 300 billion rubles. The Bank’s plans for 2014 are more ambitious – VEB Group hopes to increase its portfolio of export contracts to a trillion rubles. Director of Vnesheconombank’s Export Financing Department DaniilAlgulyan toldRG how they were going to achieve this goal.
Is a trillion rubles a realistic figure in the current economic situation?
DaniilAlgulyan: Of course, a lot will depend on the general economic situation both in Russia and on foreign markets. But it’s not only a matter of the number of contracts. We are seeking to substantially increase the number of exporters and export transactions being supported. At the same time, export financing geographical coverage is increasing. Nowadays, projects with our assistance are being implemented in 40 countries. Our key regions are CIS, Latin America, South-East Asia and Africa.
Last year, the national Russian industrial exports support system started to operate in full swing: it includes VEB, Roseximbank, the Export Insurance Agency of Russia (EXIAR), VEB-Leasing. Will any additional mechanisms be launched this year? It’s not a secret that demand for export support on the part of business is a lot greater than the state can provide.
DaniilAlgulyan: You’re absolutely right mentioning the export support system. As part of this system, we can offer exporters a whole range of financing instruments: from credits, guarantees, insurance to leasing structures. Being a parent company,VEB performs functions of a coordinator and a single window. VEB Group’s total export support portfolio exceeded 210 billion rubles out of which 160 billion rubles account for export credits (they are extended to foreign buyers of Russian export products) and guarantees extended by VEB itself. As a development institution, VEB participates in funding a number of major investment projects in such top-priority industrial sectors as oil and gas chemistry, smelting industry, construction materials manufacturing, timber processing, transport mechanical engineering, aviation. The portfolio of Russian export-oriented projects is more than 250 billion rubles. Here I mean funding of Russian enterprises whose products are to be exported.
We are actively involved in working on the further institutional development of the export support system and on boosting synergy from its operational components. Here I mean Reximbank, EXIAR, VEB-Leasing,transport mechanical engineering’s foreign subsidiary banks and financial companies. Our main objective is to provide Russian producers with both individual financing solutionsin implementing complex structured projects and with mass batch credit products above all in the SME sector. Now, new joint products of EXIAR and Roseximbankare being developed to support the exports of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Having joined the WTO, Russia refused all measures to financially support exports with the exception of those allowed withinOECD. As a result, in 2013 exporters were left without such type of support as subsidizing of interest rates under targeted credits. Now the process of Russia’s joining OECD has been suspended. Could export support measures be reviewed in this context?
DaniilAlgulyan: There is a whole range of government export financial support measures including certain types of subsidies that do not run counter to Russia’s international commitments and that are successfully used to support Russian exporters. In the last months alone, we have approved more than 20 credits for foreign buyers of Russia’s high-technology products with the use of such instruments. And our task is not a price damping but creating a level playing field for Russian exporters with their foreign competitors in credit financing.
How did sanctions against Russia affect export support? Did you suspend the implementation of any export projects, specifically, in Europe?
DaniilAlgulyan: The deterioration of the international situation did not stop the implementation of export projects we are working on now including those in Europe. But the main markets of Russia’s non-raw materials exports are CIS, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
In what sectors do export contracts predominate (aircraft construction, rocket-space industry, power engineering, mechanical engineering, defense industrial complex)?
DaniilAlgulyan: In the last year, our key export sectors were aircraft construction, mechanical engineering and power engineering. As far as supporting exports of Russian aircraft are concerned,we’ll continue to fund export supplies of SukhoiSuperjet 100 aircraft. We have made a decision to fund the supplies of 26 SukhoiSuperjet -100 aircraft to various airlines in Latin America and South-East Asia. In fact, a national aviation export financing competency center is being established on the basis of VEB. We are working with all segments of non-raw materials market and we can see a huge yet unrealized potential in most of them. We are actively involved in a number of projects in engine building, railway and automotive mechanical engineering and information technologies.
How is VEB going to increase the number of producers-exporters and credit transactions that it will support?
DaniilAlgulyan: Above all, we are trying to significantly boost producers’ awareness of our support system and existing financial instruments. Unfortunately, Russian producers are often unaware of the current export support opportunities. This poses a serious problem for us and shows us that we have to step up our efforts in boosting producers’ information awareness. We should hold workshops, conferences, especially in the regions, and work with mass media. Moreover, we attach much importance to offering consulting services. We are also making strenuous efforts to improve our decision-making processes. We are developing new financial products to adequately respond to Russian exporters’ needs.Over the last months, we have significantly reduced an average time of handling applications and increased the number of transactions being handled and approved. We are pursuing flexible policy with regard to projects we support andwe also fund a wide range of non-raw materials supplies the value of which ranges from several hundred thousand dollars to billions of dollars.
What new products to financially support export transactions in view of Russian exports needs will be developed in the n ear future?
DaniilAlgulyan: We are giving top priority to developing standardized products and financing programs, which will make it possible to significantly boost accessibility and efficiency of export support for Russian producers. As an example, we can give a system of framework agreements with foreign banks on target funding of Russian exports, which we are trying to create now. Such financing structures reduce the time of handling applications substantially.
Under the draft law of the Economic Development Ministry, VEB is to be given the right to extend guarantees for paying taxes for taxpayers.What should be done to exercise the right to extend guarantees for paying VAT?
DaniilAlgulyan: Now, the Russian legislation does not provide for an opportunity for VEB to extend guarantees for refunding compensated VAT in favor of tax authorities and guarantees in favorcustoms agencies. These guarantees are used by Russian taxpayers to reduce time periods to compensate for VAT from the federal budget as well as to secure their obligations on paying customs duties. We have prepared a package of amendments to the federal legislation providing for giving banks the right to issue guarantees for refunding compensated VAT and guarantees in favor of Russian customs agencies. Granting powers to issue such guarantees will make it possible to boost efficiency of the comprehensive export support system, reduce customers’ expenses and help to implement new projects needed for the Russian economy.
Vnesheconombank's Trust Management Department Director AlexandrPopov:“The more diversified your investments, the lower the risk to lose everything and the better the chance to increase your savings”
Information and Analytical Portal
The Laboratory for Pension Reform
Vnesheconombank's Trust Management Department Director Alexandr Popov told in his interview to the Laboratory for Pension Reform about the results of 2013 and plans for 2014. He told the Portal’s readers about the role of the new pension system for Russia’s investment market and for ordinary citizensand advised would-be pensioners on how not to become solely dependent on the state.
At the end of the last year a new pension law was enacted in Russia, a mechanism of the third pension reform was launched. How do you size up this development?
First of all, in my opinion the development was not a pension reform, I would call it a counterreform – a move away from the changes made in 2002. At first, they reduced the age of citizens entitled to funded part of pensions and now a process of destroying the funded part of pensions is under way.
Do you believe that the funded part of pensions will be eliminated?
It’s hard to say but in my opinion this is most likely to happen. Given the current economic situation under the conditions of growing budgetary expenses, it is very tempting to freeze the funded part of pensions next year. By the way, they say in the press that the funded part of pensions is 240 billion rubles. I doubt this figure. Even in 2013, funded pension contributionsamounted to more than 400billion rubles. There are no signs that in 2014, they will be lesser, the more so, wages will grow in 2014 and therefore funded contributions will grow too.
In 2002, when the pension reform was being launched its authorsbelieved that it was necessary to introduce funded part of pensions for the following reasons. It was estimated then that as early as in the mid-twenties of the 21stcentury,a ratio between pensioners and the employed would be 1:1 and the funded part of pensions was supposed to significantly reduce the state’s financial burden. How? The funded component was supposed to increase and the distribution component – to diminish thus allowing to reduce the state’s role as a distributor of pension funds and the state’s responsibility to citizens.
Now representatives of the Russian Labor Ministry say that according to their estimates we’ll achieve a ratio of 1:1 only in the 40-ies or even in the 50-ies and therefore we’ll be able to rely on the distribution component for a long time. I do not challenge these estimates but they look a bit strange. The demographic situation has improved but not that much. I think that it is an attempt to improve the budget by way of using pension savings funds.
But this is a short-term assistance?
Yes, and the Finance Ministry is of the same opinion. The situation has not changed at all and is not going to change. Trillion-ruble transfers from the budget to the Russian Pension Fund have taken place, are taking place and will take place.
What are the consequences of the 2013 pension reform?
The timing was good. So far, not so many people have become aware of the need to form their future pensions. Most people used to rely on the state and are relying on it now without understanding that the amount of their future pension depends above all on them themselves. In the case that mandatory contributions to the funded part of pensions account for less than one third of all contributions to the Russian Pension Fund, they are not likely to form a good pension. The funded pension system launched in 2002was some kind of demonstration system. People were made to save e money for pension. And at firstwhen balances on their accounts were insignificant, most people didn’t care about them, they received happiness letters notifying them that they had only 500 rubles in their accounts. But when their balances increased to 20 or even 50 thousand rubles they became a lot more interested.
And under the conditions of total financial illiteracy of Russian people, mandatory funded savings were supposed to play an important educational role. People saw that the system was working and that their savingsdid not disappear but even increased. And later on this started to generate interest in voluntary pension savings. And if we had worked in this system for another five-six years this would have become a significant impetus for increased voluntary pension savings and a basis for life insurance. Now this factor has been removed.
I believe that for would-be pensioners who haven’t made any choice, the 2013 pension reform was an extremely negative development, which makes them totally dependent on the state. And the state – the government – makes decisions above all on the basis of government finances condition rather than personal finances of would-be pensioners.
What are potential consequences for the investment market?
As to the investment market, consequences will be a lot graver.
Pension savings funds have always been, are, and will be the only source of long-term investments, especially in Russia. As a result of the reform the long-term investment market will almost die.
We can give up on VEB as a long-term investor. We haven’t been present in this market since 2014. As far as nongovernmental pension funds (NPFs) and private managing companies are concerned we have to monitor the situation here. Will they be able to become a source of long-term investments? So far I haven’t seen any economic conditions for this to happen. It’s common knowledge that the longer a bond’s duration the greater the influence of yield changes on a bond’s price. For example, if market yield growth is 1%, a ten-year bond’s price will fall a lot more than that of a three-year bond. Thus, the longer bonds’ duration the greater the risk of a negative bond revaluation. Earlier, NPFs were obliged to annually compensate to customers for losses from investing by way of using assets designed to ensure NPFs statutory activity but now, with the introduction of a system to guarantee funded contributions, NPFs are still obliged to compensate to customers for losses first through using their own funds and only then to have recourse to the guarantee fund. To tell the truth, this system is not applicable to all customers but only to those who decided to move to another fund or those entitled to the funded part of pensions. The year 2013 shows that risks of significant churn of customers are quite high and therefore risks of long-term investing are high too.
There is no doubt that government state companies are open to all kinds of changes in terms of market revaluation influence.But we have also non-revaluated instruments, for example, GSB (government savings bonds), which under bond issue terms are not subject to secondary circulation on the market. These instruments tend to somehow level market influence; they prevent yields from growing but also prevent them from falling through. The extended portfolio was quite big and sufficiently diversified, so we could afford to make long-term investments.
What’s VEB’s major risk in 2014?
As I have already mentioned we can give up on VEB as a long-term investor. We won’t have any inflow of pension savings funds. Of course, some people will choose our portfolios. But the amount of funds will not be as much as it was in the past. We received annually almost 300 billion rubles and now we’ll be receiving almost nothing. On the contrary, the amount of pension savings funds to be transferred to NPFs and managing companies according to the results of 2013 will amount to at least 200 billion rubles. This means that since 2014, there will be no inflow of pension savings and there will be a significant outflow of pension savings funds. This is the way things will be in the future. But it was new funds that allowed us to make long-term investments.
So, a main risk we’ll have to tackle this year is the liquidity risk. We are already involved in reducing our portfolios duration and we are moving to short-term investing and creating a liquidity safety net.
How can VEB’s investment portfolios change by this year-end? And are investment declarations likely to change?
The extended portfolio has already been diversified to a great extent and it is highly stress-resistant. There is no need to change anything so far. As to this portfolio, only limitations on a minimal share of government securities pose a serious threat in terms of liquidity. So far, we have been able to handle these limitations. Such regulators as the Russian Finance Ministry and the Bank of Russia are aware of this problem and we manage to resolve itthrough their helpand from now on it remains to be seen how the situation will develop.
Is VEB doing anything to make “undecideds” to choose VEB as a managing company?
VEB is severely limited by law in terms of disclosing information, in terms of selling itself, to say nothing of advertising itself. The more so, we have never competed with NPFs and private managing companies. We have different objectives and therefore different investment declarations, different capabilities. As opposed to nongovernmental managing companies or funds that are aimed at generating profits our aim is to protect pension savings funds. And here we do not compete. As opposed to NPFs, we don’t know our customers, we are not working with them, with their network of agents, advertising and etc. We are just one of the companies of the Russian Pension Fund, although our company is the largest one.
How would you assess VEB’s investment yields and average investment yields for the past three years”? Were they in general higher (or in line with inflation as they were last year). They say these were good years for the Russian economy. Was there a chance to achieve better results?
I think that 2013 was better than 2012, although in 2012 we had yields at a level of 9% and inflation was 6.2%. We showed results that were a lot higher than inflation but here we should understand the reasons for such results. It’s pretty easy to earn from the market growth. It’s more difficult to show good results when the market is falling (and in 2013 this was the case, bond prices stopped growing in the middle of the first quarter of 2013). We are happy most of all that we managed to post yields higher than inflation under such conditions.
In 2013, two thirds of private managing companies posted yields higher than VEB.
They did really well!But we should not forget we have different investment goals – VEB’s goal is to protect pension savings funds and NPFs’ and managing companies’ goal is to generate profits. But even in view of this, we achieved decent results.
I’m sure that we managed to achieve decent results in 2013 through investing funds in long-term bonds of so-called infrastructure companies (RZHD,FGC, Gazprom)and it’s unfortunate that we are losing this opportunity. These issuers have an international credit rating in line with Russia’s rating; their bond yields are undoubtedly higher than inflation, so such bonds are good instruments for investing pension funds long-term. In 2013, we invested about 280 billion rubles in such bonds and if nothing had changed we could have increased our investments in them to one trillion rubles.
By the way, when we are talking about some sort of benchmark for the investment market for pension funds, we can regard our extended portfolio as a benchmark. As a rule professional managing companies post yield better than ours because their investment declarations are more flexible than ours.
Could you forecast average pension funds’ investment yields for the current year?
We can’t forecast such indicators here, VEB is limited by terms of disclosing information. But I think we won’t be able to find an expert in the market who would give such a forecast. It’s almost impossible now.
As far as the first quarter is concerned, I’m afraid that given the current market conditions and the significant market fall in March, nobody will achieve good results.Furthermore, inflation rate started to grow, so in the first quarter our yield rates will be a lot lower than inflation. These are objective, outside circumstances beyond our control.
Some experts believe that yields that are regularly made public byVEB and other managing companies are not net yields because NPF customers’percentage yields transferred into their accounts are lower than those made public by managing companies for the accounting period. How would comment on this situation?
There are yields from investing funds and they are relative, average indicators calculated in percentage terms per annumthat reflect efficiency. An d there is a calculated growth coefficient which is used to determine the sum in rubles (that is, an absolute value) transferred to personal account of an insured citizen. Insurance contributions go to the Russian Pension Fund and it transfers them for management within a whole year. If a main sum of contributions of a concrete individual is transferred to a managing company in the fourth quarter, the managing company has few chances to manage them and in this case, a growth coefficient, which is seen by a customer, might be very small. And it won’t have any tangible effect on the managing company’s annual mean profitability. So, yields and growth coefficients are absolutely different things and you can’t determine your personal income on the basis of yield rates.
Since 2012, VEB has been forming “payment portfolios” to invest those funds which the Russian Pension Fund transfers for management for persons who have retired on a pension.Year after year, these funds will grow significantly. How would you describe the State Managing Company’s investment strategy with regard to these funds? Are you satisfied with the results already achieved?
We have been managing payment portfolios for already a year and a half. And now we know the extent of their liquidity. These portfolios volumes are rather small and they do not influence the market as much as trillion portfolios of pension savings funds do. They are a lot easier and simpler to manage. One portfolio of time payments is 160 million rubles; the second one is 1.7 billion rubles. In order to ensure real protection of these payment portfolios’ funds we have to manage them in a very active way
But so far investment declarations of these portfolios are almost identical with the declaration of the extended portfolio and the share of government bonds is limitedas well as the share of corporate bonds.Jointly both payment portfolios account for only 0.1% of the extended portfolio.
So, VEB proposed to change investment declarations of the payment portfolios in order to eliminate a minimal share of government bonds and increase the share of corporate bonds. Specifically, we have sent relevant proposals to the Russian Finance Ministry together with calculations. This issue is under consideration now. We hope to receive regulators’ approval by mid-year.
We are not of course satisfied with the results of managing the payment portfolios. But we understand that the results are objective. When we started to work with them nobody could forecast liquidity and we had to maintain it at an instant level. For this reason, yields were petty low. In fact, we started to work with them more efficiently only in the second half of 2013 but we failed to reach inflation rate. The payment reserve portfolio’s yields were 5.52% and the time pension payments portfolio’s yields – 5.51%.
How do you feel about the Central Bank’s idea to create different portfolios for citizens of different age?
Ideologically, it’s a right idea, but each person should make a decision on which portfolio is better fit for him.It’s easy to understand that when you are young and have many years ahead of you and your savings are so far rather small it’s better to choose a risky investment strategy and if you are nearing retirement age it is better not to risk.
Everybody should make decisions on his own. If someone decides to rely on government bonds why should we make him run risks, if someone lost some of his savings because of the crisis just several years before going on a pension – why should he be denied a chance to win back what he lost?
I think that the best option is for each fund including the Russian Pension Fund to offer three-four investment strategies on a mandatory basis from a maximally conservative to aggressive one.And one-two managing companies will be responsible for implementing each strategy. In this case a citizen will able to choose a strategy to invest his pension saving and not only NPF or a managing company of the Russian Pension Fund.
There are many would-be pensioners among readers of the Laboratory for Pension Reform. What would you as a specialist of investment market recommend them to do to receive a larger pension?
There is no universal strategy –largely it depends on the amount of would-be pensioners’ incomes. I think that in our country with low personal incomes mandatory pension savings model would be of overriding importance.
My only advice is to leave mandatory funded part of pensions intact. We can compare two systems and prove their correctness or incorrectness but both of them should be in place. There is one principle above all else: diversification. The more diversified your investments, the lower the risk to lose everything and the better the chance to increase your savings.”