18 May 15

Putin eyeing up oil cash

The western sanctions against Russia because of the uprising in Ukraine have, economically, caused the country a lot of pain. Russia is already in a recession, at least if we believe the economists of the big investment banks. Nevertheless, the stock market in Moskow and the ruble have made much progress in the past weeks. The financial markets seem to believe that the worst is behind them and that Putin’s Russia can start dreaming of a better future. But one thing is for sure: the government in Moskow has an urgent need for cash. And they know where they can find this money.

OAO Surgutneftegas is next in line

About 10 years ago Vladimir Putin declared war at Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the owner of Yukos Oil Co. Khodorkovsky ended up in jail and was released only a few months ago. The oligarch had the courage to go against Putin on the political front. The Russian president is far from a softy, and at the end of the story he seized Yukos Oil Co. Khodorkovsky, now in exile somewhere abroad, knows by now what the risks are when it comes to a confrontation with his president. Other oligarchs have also felt the power of Putin, who in 2014 forced Vladimir Evtushenkov to hand over his oil company OAO Bashneft. It seems like nobody can stop the mighty Putin.

34 billion dollars in cash

He has now found his next victim and it’s also a big one this time. Vladimir Putin is looking greedily at OAO Surgutneftegas, a company related to another oligarch,  Vladimir Bogdanov. The Russian president knows that Surgutneftegas is sitting on a cash pile of 34 billion dollars, and that money would be more than welcome. Alexander Branis, chief investment adviser at the Prosperity Capital Management Ltd. fund, fears the money is lost for the company and its shareholders. By getting Surgutneftegas in his grip, Putin will control the greatest part of the Russian oil industry. The president hopes that oil prices will keep rising from their present levels, so Russia as a country can reinforce its position against the western countries. More than ever, oil has become a weapon in the war between west and east.

Authored by: Tim Harrup