MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s oligarchs are no strangers to misfortune, asset grabs, forced investments and financial crises.
Many of them may publicly shrug off a 40 per cent plunge in the trouble and the difficulties caused by a sanctions-hit economy heading for recession.
And at least on paper, there are some winners, with metal producers benefitting from rising prices in export markets.
But look closer and just about every Russian company is feeling the pinch, and perhaps the only success stories are those who sold in time – or who just got lucky.
Even those close to President Vladimir Putin are not shielded from plunging oil prices and the economic downturn.
They are also at greater risk of being subject to sanctions imposed by the West over the Ukraine crisis.
Gas producer Novatek, in which an investmentvehicle belonging to sanctioned Putin ally Gennady Timchenko has a 23 per cent stake, has seen its stock market value sink from $36.9 billion to $23.6 billion as investors have bailed out and sanctions have taken their toll.
Other have got off more lightly.
In terms of market capitalisation, Norilsk Nickel,the world’s largest nickel and palladium miner and exporter owned by three of Russia’s original oligarchs – Vladimir Potanin, Oleg Deripaska and Roman Abramovich – has grown to $27.6 billion from $26 billion at the end of last year.
But the company had a market capitalisation of more than $40 billion at the end of 2010 when Russia was free of Western sanctions and when oil prices, currently near five-year lows of around $70 a barrel, were nearer $95.