Vladimir Evtushenkov: Making sense of Sistema?
Vladimir Evtushenkov, the chairman of Russian conglomerate Sistema, describes his company’s focus as consumer services but is tight-lipped about what that means. It apparently stretches to stakes in oil companies and a willingness to sell off what looked like a core element of a successful insurer. Laurence Neville reports.
IT IS PERHAPS appropriate that Sistema, one of Russia’s largest private companies, held its investors’ day in June at London’s Royal Academy of Arts at Burlington House. More than one observer at the Palladian mansion noted the similarities between the building, crammed with serious-faced young Russians charging around engrossed in their BlackBerries, and the opulence of St Petersburg.
More generally, the enormous contingent of Sistema staff, bank analysts and investors – many of whom were Russian – were a reminder that London is increasingly graced by well-heeled Russian expatriates: indeed, it is hard to walk down any of London’s smarter streets these days and not hear Russian spoken. The country’s elite has truly taken the city to their collective heart and its companies have flocked to the London Stock Exchange.
The growing affection of Russians for London and the willingness of London-based investors to invest in their companies has come under increasing pressure over the past year. Still, scarcely a day goes by without the announcement of a mega-IPO from Russia destined for London, but concerns about corporate governance and business practice in Russia have become the backdrop to each successive deal and investors have become ever more sceptical.