Steel boss defends Russian business environment

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Novolipetsk’s bankers on Friday set the price for floating 7 per cent of the company in London at $1.45 a share, valuing the Russian steelmaker at $8.7bn (£5bn). The pricing came as its chairman and majority owner hit out at those western companies that, in his view, expected too many favours from the Kremlin instead of treating Russia as a normal place to do business.

Vladimir Lisin, who stands to make more than $600m through listing his company on the London Stock Exchange, said observers of Russia were “scaring people away” with stories that the business environment in the country was getting worse. “Russia is a good place to invest in and make money,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

All the proceeds from the sale of 420m shares in Novolipetsk will go to Mr Lisin.

His previous stake of 88.5 per cent of the company, which is already listed in Moscow where a little more than 4 per cent of the share capital is traded, will be reduced to 81.5 per cent.
Unconditional dealing in Novolipetsk’s London shares starts on Thursday.

Mr Lisin, a steel engineer, who has headed the company since 1998, said he sought the London listing because he wanted to make Novolipetsk “a truly global company”.

Of the company’s annual output of just above 9m tonnes of steel, more than 60 per cent is exported.

Novolipetsk’s issuing of shares in London comes amid a wave of Russia-based companies listing in the UK.

But Mr Lisin said that this initiative by Novolipetsk did not mean he lacked faith in Russia as a country in which to base a business. “If you want to understand this, you’ve only got to look at the Moscow stock market,” he said, alluding to record highs in recent weeks in the RTS main Russian stock market index.

Rather than judge Russia on its merits, some foreign investors in the country “spend their time asking the government what it can give them”, Mr Lisin said, referring to efforts by investors to gain special grants or tax breaks.

He asked: “What would you think of me if I came to the UK and concentrated my time on asking the British government for some sort of preferential treatment?”

He said stories that Russia was not a good place to invest – focusing on episodes such as the jailing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oil tycoon, or signs that the Kremlin was increasing its control of the economy – failed to take note of improvements.

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