In December 2000, the world oil prices experienced a substantial drop. Between November 30 to December 28 the prices for the earliest futures on Brent at NYMEX slid from USD 32.62/barrel to 22.39, i. e. roughly by 31.4%. Such a fall in the world oil prices could be attributed to several factors: first, in early November the market became aware of some data on increasing the US oil reserves, which provided guarantees to some market players of a discontinuation of the growth in the world oil prices. Then the market learned that Iraq, whose oil output accounts for 3% of the world one, had sorted out some disputable matters with the UN with respect to the‘ oil for food’ program and intended to renew its supplies of petroleum derivatives to the world market. It also was some recession in the developed countries that has had a certain influence on the oil prices.
The average monthly prices in December of the respective year
Oil ( brent), USD/t
Natural gas, USD/mln.m3
Source: (calculated by the data of the London Metal Exchange and new York Mercantile Exchange)
In December 2000, the average monthly price for the Russian ‘Urals’ made up USD 24.6 vs. 31.3 in November and 26.7 averaged through 2000, while, at the same time, it was substantially higher than the average one in 1999 (17.1).
As a result of the world prices downfall, in December the oil export customs duty rate was decreased from Euro 48 to Euro 22/t., effective as of March 16, 2001.
During December 2000 the import supplies showed a considerable growth- by 18.4% compared with December 1999. That can be attributed to the impact of three factors: first, the growth in the domestic demand, Rb. appreciation vs. USD which entailed the drop in the national producers’ competitiveness, and a gradual weakening of the currencies of the countries- major partners of Russia- relative to the USD. In December 2000, the value volume of imports accounted for USD 4.7 bln. which became a record-breaking value since August 1998.
During the period in question, according to Goskomstat, the volume of mutual trade between Russia and the CIS countries made up USD 2.8 bln., with exports totaled USD 1.5 bln., i. e. practically remaining at the last year’s level (96.7% relative to is respective index of 1999). At the same time imports grew by 19.8% vs. their respective period of 1999 and made up USD 1.3 bln. Similar to all the previous months of 2000, December showed a faster growth in import supplies from the CIS countries compared with both the volume of Russian exports and the growth in supplies from the third countries. Considering as well the fact of growth in physical volumes of goods supplies to Russia from the neighboring regions, one may argue that the trend to the Russian importers’ re-orientation towards importing of cheaper goods, even of a lower quality, is there.
In January 2001 the data on Russia-Belarus (which is among Russia’s biggest trading partners) became available.
For 11 months of 2000 Russia’s foreign trade turnover with Belarus accounted for USD 8.5 bln., or at 38.1% more than in 1999, providing a 54% growth in the volume of export supplies and a 20% growth in imports.
The balance of Belarus trade with Russia is negative: according to the noted data, the latter made up USD 1.7 bln. The proportion of the Belorussian foreign trade turnover in the overall one of Russia made up 6.3% over the period concerned.
It is raw materials and minerals that traditionally constitute the backbone of the Russian exports: the supplies of crude oil, natural gas, and ferrous metals account for 50.3% of the overall volume of export supplies. As concerns the structure of the import from Belarus, it is machinery and vehicles, food stuffs, chemicals and textiles that account for over 75% of the overall volume of the imported goods.
The customs and tariff policy must be aimed at selective methods of protection of domestic consumers: in particular the practice of introduction of compensation and antidumping duties on the basis of investigations generated by producers’ claims. The Ministry for Economic Development and Trade recently has received numerous requests to introduce protective measures on the part of many sectors, however, all those requests were rejected, and no investigation has been launched, because there was no clear evidence submitted, in compliance with the law, that could illustrate the compliance with a loss/ dumping criteria. In fact, in the meantime the investigation is underway on two kinds of produce: pipes and starch, and since February 9, 2001, the Ministry has begun an investigation on import of caramel.
N.Volovik, N. Leonova
Privatization in 2000: results and constrains
The situation in the area of privatization sales insignificantly differed from the one noted between 1998 to 2000. Originally, the plan for 2000 envisaged the sales of 242 JSC from 24 sectors and stocks of 1,500 JSC created on the basis of the former state unitary enterprises, real estate, and military assets, though many of those deals did not happen. Nonetheless, the revenues from privatization to the 2000 budget have proved to be substantially higher than the originally envisaged Rb. 22 bln.
In all, according to preliminary results of 2000, the revenues from the use and sales of the state property accounted for Rb. 50.6 bln., including from sales- 31.4 bln. (including over 25 bln. arose from the sale of ONACO), 9.8 bln.- from operations of VietSovPetro joint venture, 5.6 bln. dividends on shares (1,020 JSC=s, 3,4 bln.- from rental payments for federal property, 0.44 bln.- from the use of the federal property located abroad.
It was the sales of the stake in ONACO (85% of the stock, Rb. 1.08 bln.), stock packages of LukOil (at a special auction, 05%, Rb. 14 bln.), Mezhdurechensk and Krasnoyarsk coal companies, and ‘Bolshevichka’ factory. In summer 2000 the government held a soecial auction in 30 regions on the remaining 0.25% of RAO ‘Norilsky Nickel’. The sale at a separate auction of the last 7 shares of the RAO left after the special auction was rather ridiculous: that met the formal legal requirements, however the government incurred the costs that substantially exceeded the final income.
In September 2000, the government submitted to the State Duma a regular draft 2001 privatization program, in which traditionally the most serious question arose around the list of companies subject to privatization. As in 1999 and 2000, the list also comprised the biggest enterprises (holdings) the privatization of whose stakes has already been postponed several times. That testifies particularly to the government’s current formal approach to the document which has not been approved since 1997. The bills on privatization in principle exclude the Duma’s control over privatization trough its approval of the list of the biggest enterprises. In this connection, in September 2000 the Duma passed in the first reading the bill prepared by CPRF and Agrarian Group (amendments to the privatization law) that prohibited an estrangement from the federal ownership of stakes in large JSC=s (with the value of capital assets as per the balance sheet exceeded 5,000.000 minimal wages rate as of January 1, 2000). The amendment was introduced to the draft 2001 budget law in compliance with which any transactions on large enterprises were prohibited until the adoption of the privatization program.
In 2001 the income from privatization is projected to make up not less than Rb. 30 bln. (forecasted value is 33 to 38 bln.), including 18 bln.- from the sales of property and 11.98 bln.- from the management of the state property. It is the stock package of ‘Svyazinvest’ (traditionally, 25% minus 2 shares) that is mentioned among main sales items, however, that may become possible only upon the holding restructuring and its pre-sale preparation). In all, the 2001 list developed by the Ministry for State Property comprised over 700 large enterprises: thus in particular it is intended once again to sell 19.68% of Slavneft (that’s a priority, considering the size of the stake), 2.5% of Gasprom shares (but only upon the establishment of a single market for the shares of the RAO), and stocks of Rosneft, Aeroflot, and ‘Vnukovo’ and ‘Sheremetyevo’ airports.
In compliance with the requirements of the ‘Concept for management of the state property and privatization in the Russian Federation’ (approved by Resolution of the RF Government # 1024 of September 9, 1999), the largest and most attractive items should be sold using the most efficient an transparent methods of sales and taking into account the market situation. Given that yet in early 2000, Western consultants proposed MSP a new «transparent» way of privatizing the most attractive stakes- through the issuing ADR. It was envisaged that such a placement of the of the state-owned stakes would result in a bigger amount of revenues (compared with the national stock market) and would not give a rise to claims about the close nature of the procedures. The problem is that the current privatization law does not provide a possibility of the direct issuance of derivative papers (including ADR) for their sales in foreign markets. The State Duma and the Federal Securities Commission have already identified the problem of the need in regulation of issuance of ADR (particularly with respect to voting).
As a result, in 2000 the transactions on the placement of LukOl’s and Gasprom’s ADR=s on foreign markets have failed. Considering the favorable oil price situation at that moment and in order to by-pass the amendment to the 2001 budget (on the prohibition of sales prior to the adoption of privatization program), the government accepted a scheme for LukOil in late 2000. It is envisaged that the Russian Fund for Federal Property (RFFP) contributes with 6% of LukOil stake (of the 14% remaining under the state’s control) to a Rb. 14 bln. authorized capital of a specially founded JSC ‘Companiya Projectnoy Privatizacii’ with 100% government participation. The Board of Directors of the JSC must comprise 5 representatives of the state. The intended ADR of the 3rd level are to be placed at the New York Stock Exchange, and the envisaged income roughly should make up USD 800 mln. (USD 16 per share vs. the price of USD 2.6 per share in the course of the sale of a 9% stake to a Cyprus company in 1999.
There are, however, three problems that remain unclear. First, the dependence of such sales from the general state of affairs on the US stock market. Secondly, the sale by BP of its stake partly on the open market and partly in a form of convertible obligations (in all 6.69%) has already affected the ADR placement value. Thirdly, according to some estimates, the costs of sales through ADR (considering a Western bank’s commission fee) may become higher than the costs in the case of a domestic placement (even with the narrow gap between the external and domestic prices). As a result, the deal was suspended by the RF Government in February 2001.
In general, the forecasts for proceeds from privatization in 2001 are fairly modest, and most likely they should drop compared with 2000. Considering that the rent of the federal property and dividends on shares are fixed in the revenue part of the budget, since 1999 the revenues generated from the sales of state assets no longer have been related to budget assignments, and in 2001 they should be forwarded to service the RF debt obligations. Another objective factor is the existence of serious privatization objects that may be sold efficiently (i. e. upon consideration of a favorable price situation in the market, with the respective pre-sale preparation, existence of a program of restructuring agreed upon, and investors’ real interest, and without political confrontation) yet in 2001.