Foreign investors bail on Russian stocks

By Staff Writer

Jan 29, 2016 11:33 PM EST

Global investors are offloading some of the most liquid Russian stocks. The soaring volatility in the domestic stock markets and Russian currency are driving foreign investors towards safer assets and less risky investments. The oil price decline to 12-year low is also impacting Russian markets in more negative way.

Oil revenue is the main source of income for Russia. Russian currency Ruble turned weaker against several currencies of developing nations. Foreign investors are faster than local traders in selling stocks on Moscow Exchange. This is narrowing the gap between onshore and offshore-traded equities. 

Bloomberg reports that the spread between Magnit PJSC, London-based global depository receipts of food retailer, an local shares narrowed down 22 percent, the most in a year.The mobile phone carrier Megafon PJSC GDRs and oil producer Gazprom Neft PJSC are priced at a discount in London. These were trading at a premium on Moscow exchange during the past 12 months. 

Anastasia Levashova, a money manager who helps oversee $450 million in emerging-market equities at Blackfriars Asset Management Ltd, said: "Foreigners can quickly sell Russian shares and go somewhere else in emerging markets where they can get relatively good returns for less risk in London."

Russian markets were closed for 10 days on account of Russian Orthodox Christmas and New Year holidays. Russian stocks and currency Ruble have been moving southwards till date. Russia entered recession in 2015 and witnessing continuous drop in stocks and currency value. 

Russia had been facing adverse conditions in the domestic market and overseas as well in the wake of lower oil prices and Western sanctions on it over Ukraine. Russian stocks picked up following the bounce back in oil price. The oil price is hovering above $30 a gallon. On the other hand, Ruble is also recovering marginally. The dollar-denominated RTS index recovered 0.22 percent after dropping by 3.5 percent, according to Yahoo Finance

The Russian stocks peform typically with a variation on home markets and abroad. Levashova further said: "Local investors are more resilient to the roller-coaster in the Russian market and more willing to hold on to their shares.  as they have much fewer alternative tools."

For instance, Magnit stock fell 12 percent in London market this year so far, while it remain unchanged on Moscow Stock Exchange. The Magnit stock was impervious to selloff in Russian currency Ruble and oil price drop. Megafon fell 13 percent in London and twice the fall in Moscow market. Gazprom Neft also declined 14 percent in London, while it was 6.3 percent in Moscow this year so far. 

The American Chamber of Commerce in Russia opines that the situation in Russia is better than that of 2014. Fundamentally, there's no much change in investment climate. Alexis Rozianko, President, American Chamber of Commerce in Russia said: "I would say people just got used to it. It's a fact that big companied did not leave Russia." 

The continuous oil price drop and weaker financial markets are also pulling down the exchange traded funds (ETFs) in Russia. The Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX), the largest Russia exchange traded fund trading in the US also fell over eight percent during the past one month. The declining value of Russian currency Ruble also further puts pressure on ETFs including RSX, as reported by ETF Trends.

Russia has imposed restrictions on depository receipt conversion to 25 percent of company's shares and 50 percent of listed stock. Major companies such as Magnit already reached their limit. This is resulting in hihger premium abroad.

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