Una breve analisi dell’Oxford Analytica su come la crisi finanziaria internazionale muterà i rapporti di forza all’interno della Russia.
Russia’s oligarchs — billionaires who accumulated colossal industrial and financial holdings in the 1990s — profited mightily from the high commodity prices and easy credit of the 2000s. Now reeling from massive declines in wealth, they are struggling to retain some independence from the state even as they seek its aid.
Economic battering. The world economic crisis has affected Russia’s oligarchs via three channels:
Stock market crash. Russia’s stock market is down over 70% in dollar terms on the year. Some analysts link this fall to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s brief, highly publicized skirmish with the Mechel metals company this summer and investor edginess related to the conflict with Georgia. Yet with emerging markets worldwide down nearly 60%, any effect of these events is marginal compared to the impact of the international flight from equities and the knock-on effect of the credit crisis on Russian banks’ ability to hold equity.
Plunging commodity prices. High oil prices benefited oligarchs with ownership in the sector directly, and helped others by fueling rapid domestic market growth and demand for metals and other commodities. With oil down approximately 70% from its peak, these effects will cease. Rapid retrenchment in investment plans for the hydrocarbons sector also has important implications for metals producers, who were counting on large pipeline-related orders. With world metals prices diving — down around 43% from this time last year — the metals industry too is scaling back its investment plans.
Global credit crunch. Russian firms, both state-owned and private, have borrowed vigorously abroad. Many of these loans were taken out on the premise that they could be rolled over, and were used to finance acquisitions that would not generate enough profits to cover the loans before they came due.
Help from the state? Financial vulnerability raises the greatest practical and political issues for the oligarchs. With world credit markets imploding, there is no alternative to asking the Russian state to step in. Representatives of both state and private big business have lobbied for state-backed refinancing, and the government has made 50 billion dollars available via state-owned Vneshekonombank (VEB)
The state’s role also raises political challenges for the oligarchs. Whatever limited public legitimacy their wealth has afforded them depends on their claims to exceptional managerial abilities — claims that now ring very hollow. The oligarchs’ new status as debtors of the state may also undermine their ability to manage their firms independently. To receive the VEB loans, the oligarchs had to surrender shares as collateral. Aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska pledged a 25% stake in Norilsk Nickel, and a VEB-nominated state representative will now join the company’s board.
Public/private balance. Should the government decide to respond to the crisis with a full-fledged shift towards statism — a realistic though certainly not inevitable prospect — the oligarchs’ companies would not be in a position to ignore or deflect the authorities’ wishes easily. If the state’s credits cannot be repaid, today’s shares-for-loans deals could be the first step towards a renationalization that would reverse the effect of the loans-for-shares privatizations more than a decade earlier.
The world economic crisis has reduced the oligarchs’ wealth to a small fraction of its former value, and left them fighting for the survival of their firms and the preservation of what is left of their fortunes. They will not be able to accomplish these aims without the substantial aid of the Russian state. Furthermore, they will have little wherewithal to constrain how the state makes use of its new-found influence over the fate of large private corporations.