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Russians turn attention to UAE

Russian financial institutions are looking to the Middle East to offset weakening returns in Western and Asian markets.

Several large Russian banks, investment houses and funds are shunning the West and Asia and looking to set up in Dubai to earn better returns on investments in regional financial and equities markets. VTB Bank, one of Russia's largest banking groups, the investment bank Renaissance Capital and a number of investment funds are actively looking to start operating in the UAE. "There are several other investment houses, energy firms and infrastructure development companies that are considering plans to enter the Gulf," said Sergei Kolushev, the chairman of Eventica, a conference management and investment advisory firm. Mr Kolushev said some of Russia's largest investment houses were already in preliminary discussions with the Dubai Financial Services Authority and Dubai Financial Market (DFM) to seek possible entry into the country. Russian firms have traditionally been active in Asian and European markets, but with the global downturn, they are looking at alternative investment avenues. "They have had their fingers burnt and are looking for better markets," Mr Kolushev said. "They were happy making money back home, but now they have to look for other markets like those in the Gulf, which are relatively more sheltered." He said a number of Russian firms had cancelled their public offerings on the London Stock Exchange due to difficult market conditions, and could look to the Gulf as an alternative launch pad to raise capital. "There is a possibility some Russian firms could list on Gulf exchanges and raise capital here," he said, adding that the strength of the Gulf economies was a big lure for the Russian businesses. "The fundamentals are right here." The Eventica chairman also said the DFM was planning a roadshow in Russia next year to meet fund managers, financial institutions and major corporations to seek investment in the Dubai exchange. "We have met the DFM, but there is no time set for the roadshow. If it happens, it will be sometime next year," he said. Eventica is holding the first ever Russia Investment roadshow in Dubai today in co-operation with Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. The event is bringing Russian and Gulf energy, investment, transport and port infrastructure development firms together to promote bilateral trade and investment opportunities. According to Russian Federal Statistics Service data, foreign investment in the Russian economy totalled more than US$120 billion (Dh440.7bn) last year, more than doubling the 2006 figure. Russian investments abroad rose 40 per cent last year to $75bn. At the beginning of the year, two new funds worth more than $150bn were carved out of the Russian government's stabilisation fund to focus on foreign investment, giving Russia its first ever sovereign wealth fund. Trade between the UAE and Russia currently exceeds $700 million. "There is still a massive demand in hospitality, real estate and road and aviation infrastructure in Russia," Mr Kolushev said, adding that UAE firms with skills and experience in hospitality, property, aviation and infrastructure development could find Russia a very attractive market. He said several investment deals were currently being negotiated by Gulf and Russian firms. "It is too early to name the names and reveal the nature of deals. I can only say there are negotiations happening." However, he said Russian investors were more focused on the Gulf's oil and gas, IT and financial services sectors. "With this roadshow, we are opening doors to Russia. We are bringing top business leaders and government officials under one roof to explore bilateral investment and trade opportunities," he said. "At the same time we want to make Russian businesses realise that Dubai is more than a travel destination. It is the key to entering the regional markets." skhan@thenational.ae

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