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President Vladimir Putin announced late in 2007 that Russia needs to spend $1 trillion on upgrading its dilapidated, Soviet-era infrastructure. That bill will be paid for by private and public money. The state contribution will come from the $500 billion of foreign reserves that Russia has built up from sales of its hydrocarbon reserves.
As a result of the 1998 Russian market tumble, the country found itself behind the likes of China and India in the renovation of its national infrastructure. Now, hedge funds and investment banks are taking an interest. For example, the fund Renaissance Investment Management set up a Russian Infrastructure Fund at the same time as Putin made his announcement.
Russian railways need $250 million for rebuilding tracks and new rolling stock. However, the railways are state-owned, and are going to remain in national hands. Electricity demand, meanwhile, is higher than supply and generation, transmission and distribution could use another $100 billion in upgrades. That industry has already been subject to a considerable degree of privatisation.
Roads and tunnels are also needed. For example there is still no good highway between Moscow and St Petersburg. On the water supply side, you donÆt drink the tap water in Russia. In fact, the only thing that seems finished is the telecoms network, which accommodates 110% penetration in the country.
In the shipping industry, the Russian Black Sea fleet has to move from Sebastopol in the Crimea given UkraineÆs imminent green light to join Nato. It will be moving to Novo Rossiysk and their new port will cost billions.
ôThere are lots of ways to play the Russian infrastructure theme,ö says Martin Diggle of the Artradis Russian Opportunities Fund. ôYou can go direct, such as by investing in Transneft, the owner of oil pipelines, or port companies. Indirectly we look at firms that make components for hydro-electric plants. Iron ore plants, and coal and coke are other ways of getting involved.ö
The Artradis Russian fund was up 81% in 2007, compared to a market rise of 16%. In 2008, the fund is up 18%, compared to a market fall of 10%. Bucking the downward trend this year have been mobile phone and steel stocks.
ôTo get involved in the infrastructure theme, you can also accomplish it via repair and maintenance companies, a sector which has been fragmented and in which there has been few consolidations," says Aivaras Abromavicius, a fund manager at East Capital. ôAnother way is via construction companies and steel mills like Evraz.ö
The $2.2 billion East Capital Russia Fund was up 31% in 2007. It looks to invest about 25% of its assets in Russian private equity situations. ItÆs the largest Russian Fund and is up in value 19 times in its near-10-year life.
RussiaÆs richest man is Oleg Deripaska, who is worth $40 billion. His venture into infrastructure is coming soon in the Sochi area of the Black Sea, where one of his ventures is building a Dubai æPalmÆ style property development. Sochi is also the venue of an upcoming winter Olympics, and the cost of building that infrastructure is soaring above eight figures.
Russia is estimated to have 87 oligarchs with over a billion dollars and far more minigarchs with assets of $200 million to $1 billion. Merrill Lynch has estimated that Moscow alone contains 100,000 dollar millionaires.
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