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Infrastructure: Merrill Lynch offers Russia infrastructure play

US investment bank Merrill Lynch has created a new infrastructure equities index, giving investors convenient access to the projected infrastructure boom in Russia.

The $500 million Merrill Lynch Russia Infrastructure Basket (MLEMRIB) comprises 18 stocks spanning the telecommunications, energy, steel, utilities and transport industries. Each component stock must have a minimum capitalization of $100 million and a daily trading turnover of $1 million, with the component stocks being reviewed every six months.

The launch of the index comes in the wake of the creation last May of the Merrill Lynch Emerging Market Infrastructure Index (MLEMII), which seeks to capture exposure to the $1 trillion-worth of infrastructure spending that the firm believes will be invested in emerging markets by 2010. When that index launched, Merrill forecast that infrastructure spend in Russia would be $185 billion by the end of 2009, principally in an effort to facilitate the export of commodities via road, rail, sea and air routes. According to Merrill Lynch forecasts at the time, Russia was set to be the second-biggest emerging market spender on infrastructure, accounting for 16% of the total $1 trillion spend through to 2010, versus a 36% share for the biggest spender, China.

Russian companies accounted for 10% of the MLEMII, spanning the oil and gas, telecoms and utilities sectors.

Merrill Lynch is by no means the only firm targeting what promises to be a highly lucrative market.

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