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VimpelCom comes to the Big Apple

The Russians are here -­ at last

Taking stock of Russian equities

For 30 years, scientist Dimitri Zimin beavered away at the Mintz Radio Technical Institute, developing advanced radio electronics and related defence equipment. It was secret work, the institute being a key part of the Soviet military establishment. By the eve of the collapse of communism, Zimin had been promoted to a senior managerial position and was working on anti-missile defence systems.

All this makes him an unlikely candidate to emerge from his bunker and lead the first Russian company to list on the New York Stock Exchange. But he did exactly that in a $110 million American depositary share (ADS) offer last November with joint global coordinators Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and Renaissance Capital. Despite his poor command of English, crumpled suits and modest demeanour, Zimin convinced investors that VimpelCom was a unique investment: it was a fast-growing start-up Russian company that had been profitable from day one and whose managers understood the importance of brand awareness and how good customer service could keep it ahead of local competition.

Help from Chicago

By the early 1990s, Zimin could see that the changes sweeping Russia would mean the end of unlimited budgets for military-industrial researchers such as he.

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