PA ANALYSIS: Russia's case beyond commodities

Added 17th March 2017

Russia is regaining appeal for emerging market investors but are there reasons to invest beyond a commodities recovery?

PA ANALYSIS: Russia's case beyond commodities

It seems that things are finally looking up for Russia.

The Trump/Putin bromance is going strong - keeping hopes of removing Russian sanctions alive, oil prices have recovered from their blistering lows at the beginning of last year and inflation in the region is falling steadily.

But for most emerging market funds, Russia is still an underweight, pointed out Robin Geffen, Neptune chief executive and manager of the group's Russia and Greater Russia Fund.

The reason for this, he says, is that as a market, Russia is still generally “underowned and misunderstood within a global equity context.”

“The key to understanding what is likely to happen next is to look closely at the real world, rather than the western media,” he says.

“The political landscape in Russia is very stable compared with much of Europe, meaning that the main determinant of the Russian stockmarket will be its improving economic outlook.” 

But, given the health of the Russian economy is heavily reliant upon the performance of global energy markets, are investors in the region simply at the mercy of the price of Brent Crude?

SW Mitchell Capital Emerging European fund manager Lukas Schmitz admits the lack of sectors and companies to invest in compared with developed markets and even other emerging economies is one of the reasons Russia is a tough region to crack.

“There is still very little real industrial production in the region, which means your options are kind of limited.

"There are industries one would love to invest in but you can’t because they don’t exist. And when those great sectors and companies do exist, they are usually quite expensive.”

Further, the oil price rally towards the end of 2016 actually hurt Russia's economy more than it helped.

“There was a slight hope that the prolonged oil price depression would show the Russian government the need to diversify so that they might build up the real economy outside of the commodities exporting business.  That obviously hasn’t happened,” he adds.

However, currently he is seeing more opportunities outside of Russia’s biggest industry in real estate developers.  

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