Companies fear Russian sanctions impact
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BP and Renault have become the first large European companies to warn of the potential impact of sanctions against Russia on their businesses as the EU and US prepare to impose far-reaching restrictions on Russian companies operating in the west.
BP, which owns nearly 20 per cent of Rosneft, the oil group that is majority held by the Russian government, said that its increasing profits in Russia could be hit by the growing push for tighter sanctions. Rosneft is already on the US blacklist, but until now has not been covered by restrictions introduced by the EU.
“If further international sanctions are imposed on Rosneft or new sanctions are imposed on Russia or other Russian individuals or entities, this could have a material adverse impact on our relationship with and investment in Rosneft, our business and strategic objectives in Russia and our financial position and results of operations,” the BP statement said. Its shares were down just over 1 per cent in London in midday trading.
Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, said the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which had triggered the move to tighter sanctions was a game changer. “Sometimes events occur that are unintended and change the course of history - this [MH17] was one such event,” said Mr Dudley, a US citizen who sits on the Rosneft board.
French carmaker, Renault saw its shares fall 4 per cent after it said sales in Russia had fallen in the first half of this year and warned worse was to come.
Renault, which along with its Japanese partner Nissan, controls Avtovaz, Russia’s largest carmaker by sales and maker of the Lada models, said deliveries to Russia have already fallen by 8 per cent in the first six months.
“We’re in a situation where it’s complicated to know what sanctions will be implemented and what their impact will be,” said Jérôme Stoll, a senior Renault executive.
The warnings came as 28 national ambassadors to the EU met on Tuesday to finalise the bloc’s most ambitious sanctions against Russia to date. The move is expected to be joined by a similar announcement from the White House amid growing concerns the Kremlin is intentionally escalating the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The prospect of harsher sanctions hit the rouble again on Tuesday, with it falling against every major currency. The Russian currency lost 0.5 per cent against the dollar, although equity markets were calmer after sliding more than 10 per cent in the last fortnight alone.
Russian bond yields edged higher again, with the benchmark 10-year yield hitting a three-month high of 9.42 per cent.
The EU is expected for the first time to agree “phase three” sanctions against Moscow, which would hit entire sectors of the Russian economy rather than previous measures that only targeted individuals and “entities” with restrictions. A draft of the sanctions legislation seen by the Financial Times would target the Russian banking sector, next-generation oil exploration projects and impose an arms embargo.
Following a teleconference between Barack Obama, the US president, and his German, French, British and Italian counterparts on Monday, all five leaders indicated they were prepared to act in unison to move towards such sweeping sanctions. The US has long been preparing a new licensing regime that would restrict high-tech exports to the Russian energy industry, but it would have to expand its measures against Russian banks to match the move being prepared by the EU.
“They agreed on the importance of co-ordinated sanctions measures on Russia for its continued transfer of arms, equipment and fighters into eastern Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement following the call.
In a separate statement, Downing Street added: “Leaders agreed that the international community should . . . impose further costs on Russia and specifically that ambassadors from across the EU should agree a strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible.”
Due to the sensitivity of the sanctions under consideration, EU diplomats warned the meeting of EU ambassadors could last most of the day. The draft legislation would block large, state-owned Russian banks from issuing stock or bonds on European markets; bar exports needed for Russian deep-sea drilling, Arctic exploration and shale oil projects; and impose a ban on “dual use” technologies alongside the arms embargo.
Late on Monday, the same group of EU ambassadors reached an agreement in principle to add a group of “cronies” of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to the EU’s existing sanctions blacklist, the first time the bloc has moved beyond officials directly responsible for the upheaval in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
EU diplomats said the list, which currently includes eight new names and three “entities”, will not be finalised until Tuesday given the need to ensure the cases against the individuals are legally sound.
In addition to preparing to ratchet up sanctions, the US has reportedly accused Russia of violating the Reagan-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty when it tested a ground-launched cruise missile, though the testing predates the present conflict over Ukraine. According to the New York Times, the US determination was presented to the Kremlin in a letter to Mr Putin on Monday.
Additional reporting by Mark Odell in London and Michael Stothard in Paris
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