Russia 110214 Basic Political Developments

Sugar Import Tariffs to Fall

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Sugar Import Tariffs to Fall
14 February 2011

Raw sugar imports are expected to decline in February, then rise after a cut in import tariffs, the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies said.

The think tank said in a monthly review Friday that 102,000 tons may be imported to Russia in February, down from 150,000 tons in January. "483,000 tons of Brazilian raws are set to be shipped to Black Sea [ports]. … The bulk of this volume, as well as no less than 150,000 tons of already unloaded raws, will be cleared by customs after the $50 per ton tariff becomes effective," the report said.

The government has proposed cutting the raw sugar import tariff in March to $50 per ton from $140.


Population Drop Could Put Debt at 585% of GDP
14 February 2011


Russia's debt may surge to 585 percent of gross domestic product by 2050 as the population declines and the government ramps up spending, pushing the credit rating below investment grade, Standard & Poor's said.

The population will probably shrink to 116 million by 2050 from 140 million last year, forcing the government's age-related expenditures to rise to 25.5 percent of GDP from 13 percent in 2010 in the rating agency's "base-case scenario," S&P credit analysts led by Frank Gill in London said in a research note last week.

The demographic decline will lead to "prolonged fiscal imbalances," putting Russia's credit rating under "rising pressure" after 2015, according to S&P. The government's debt is rated BBB at Standard & Poor's, two notches above junk. The country's state debt made up 9.5 percent of GDP, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Feb. 2.

"Russia's aging population will likely place substantial pressure on economic growth performance and public finances," the analysts wrote. "By 2035, we expect that Russia's fiscal indicators will have weakened such that they would be more in line with sovereigns currently rated in the speculative-grade category, because, in our view, the projected improvement in GDP per capita would not be able to offset the potential fiscal deterioration."

The government may be forced to raise the retirement age to cope with the crisis, Kudrin has said. Russia's population, which has posted 14 years of declines before rising by 23,300 to 141.9 million in 2009, will fall to 139 million by 2031 under the government's baseline forecast.

Pension Age

The pension age is now 60 for men and 55 for women. The country may have 112 working people for 100 pensioners in two years and reach parity by 2030, compared with the current ratio of 128 to 100, according to Kudrin.

The population shrank by 81,600 from the end of 2009 to 141.8 million on Dec. 1, according to latest data from the State Statistics Service published on Feb. 9. The average life expectancy for men is about 61.8 years and 74.2 years for women.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made tackling Russia's demographic crisis a priority during his eight years as president, starting payments to women for each second child. In 2007, he approved a long-term plan for halting the decline that aimed to stabilize the population at about 142 million by 2015 and to spur growth to 145 million by 2025.

'Moderate' Spending

The government's spending on its aging population will remain "moderate" until the early 2020s before pension outlays soar as more people approach retirement, S&P said. Spending on pensions is expected to increase to 18.8 percent of GDP by 2050 from 9.4 percent last year, the rating company estimates.

Pensions will rise 8.8 percent in 2011 after readjustment for inflation, following an increase of about 45 percent last year, Putin said during a meeting with Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova on Jan. 31. That increase amounts to 277 billion rubles ($9.4 billion) a year in additional government outlays, according to Golikova.

The country's old-age dependency ratio, defined as the number of people aged 65 and older divided by the number of those between the ages of 15 and 64, will increase to 39 percent by 2050 from 18 percent in 2010, S&P said.

The population aged 15 to 64 reached a maximum in Russia in 2005, Ivan Tchakarov, chief economist for Russia and the former Soviet Union at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research in Moscow, wrote in a Jan. 21 research note. The age group will only peak in 2025 in China, 2030 in Brazil and 2045 in India, according to Tchakarov.

Labor Costs

The shrinking work force will increase labor costs, accelerating Russia's per capita growth to 4.9 percent this year from 4.4 percent in 2010, making it the richest of the so-called BRIC countries along with Brazil, Merrill Lynch estimates.

Russia's increasing wealth means that its debt rating will likely be raised three notches to A by 2015 before coming under pressure as a result of its demographic decline, S&P said.

Even so, the agency's base-case scenario is "not a prediction," the analysts wrote.

"Rather, it is a simulation that highlights the importance of age-related spending trends as a factor in the evolution of sovereign creditworthiness," according to the report. "Historically, once governments are confronted with unsustainably rising debt burdens, they usually react by tightening their fiscal stances or reforming their expenditure programs."

Business, Energy or Environmental regulations or discussions

Rusal, Rosneft, Lukoil, VTB, TNK-BP: Russian Equity Preview

By Paul Abelsky

Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The following companies may have unusual price changes in Russian trading. Stock symbols are in parentheses and share prices are from the previous close.

Russia’s ruble-based Micex Index added 2.2 percent to 1,713.93 in Moscow. The dollar-denominated RTS advanced 1.9 percent to 1,881.90.

United Co. Rusal (486 HK): The world’s biggest aluminum producer will consider a $12.8 billion cash offer from OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel for its 20 percent stake in Norilsk.

Rusal fell 2.7 percent to HK$12.48 in Hong Kong.

OAO Rosneft (ROSN RX) and OAO Lukoil (LKOH RX): Oil fell to a 10-week low in New York after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down and handed power to the military, reducing concern that crude shipments from the Middle East will be disrupted.

Rosneft, Russia’s biggest oil company, jumped 3.4 percent to 255.13 rubles. Lukoil, the second-largest producer, gained 1.9 percent to 1,927.29 rubles.

VTB Group (VTBR RX): Russia’s second-largest bank priced its share sale at $6.25 per global depositary receipt, RIA Novosti reported. State-run VTB will officially announce the pricing on Feb. 14.

VTB gained 1.4 percent to 9.47 kopeks in Moscow. Its GDRs were unchanged at $6.27 on the London Stock Exchange.

OAO TNK-BP Holding (TNBP RU): The oil producer’s billionaire shareholders will likely demand at a board meeting that the venture participate in BP Plc’s planned alliance with OAO Rosneft and may force a vote on the issue as early as Feb. 18, when the board is due to meet, the Financial Times reported.

TNK-BP climbed 3.4 percent to $3.03 on the RTS Index.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Abelsky in Moscow at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Willy Morris at

Last Updated: February 13, 2011 22:00 EST

Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:14am GMT

Polish biggest utility PGE PGEP.WA along with PSE Operator

are in talks with the Russian Inter RAO about building an energy

link with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and energy supplies

from a planned nuclear power, daily Rzeczpospolita wrote quoting

PGE Chief Executive Tomasz Zadroga.

PGE expects to post a record net profit this year if it is

able to unload its telecoms assets, its chief executive told

Reuters in an interview. [ID:nLDE71A1WQ]

Poland to buy Russian nuclear energy?

14th February 2011

Two Polish companies are reportedly trying to broker a supply agreement to this effect

Polish state-owned utility PGE and transmission system operator PSE Operator are in talks with Russian energy company Inter RAO about building an energy line from Kaliningrad to Poland, daily Rzeczpospolita reported PGE's CEO as saying.

The energy would be sourced from a nuclear power plant which is being built there, the daily wrote.

With the preliminary discussions now complete, the Polish side is waiting for the Russian party to estimate how much energy would in fact be available for purchase, the daily wrote. The concrete numbers are to be revealed by mid-2011. Preliminary calculations indicate, however, that the mooted supplies from the east would satisfy some eight percent of Poland's total demand for energy.

Tomasz Zadroga, PGE CEO, told Rzeczpospolita that the deal will not involve participating in Russia's nuclear energy program, but will instead only concern the purchase of energy.

“Our talks with the Russian partner are about a trade deal as we are looking for cheaper sources of energy,” Mr Zadroga said, adding that Poland will face an energy deficit in four or five years' time.

According to the newspaper, the Russian side has declared that the first of the nuclear reactors in the Kaliningrad region will be ready in 2016, while the second one will be operational in 2018.

Henryk Majchrzak, president of PSE Operator – the company that would be responsible for building the transmission line – told the daily that the line will be built only when it could potentially bring profits. According to Mr Majchrzak, the construction of the line could take some four years.

Poland AM

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