Investors starting to show interest in Russia again: Credit Suisse

Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:58am EDT
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By Polina Devitt and Katya Golubkova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Investors are starting to look at Russia again after cutting off exposure amid geopolitical tensions two years ago, the head of Credit Suisse's $60 million Russian Equity Fund said.

There are no big inflows yet but a rebound in Russian stock markets in the past few months as the oil price and the rouble have picked up is encouraging interest, Anna Vaananen told Reuters.

"The same people, I am seeing for the first time in two years, are now asking for an update on what is going on with the Russian market," Vaananen said. "I think it is actually a real change."

The top holdings in the Swiss bank's Russian Equity Fund include the country's largest lender Sberbank (SBER.MM: Quote), retailers Magnit (MGNT.MM: Quote) and X5 (PJPq.L: Quote), oil producer Lukoil (LKOH.MM: Quote), the biggest search engine Yandex (YNDX.O: Quote) and the top mobile phone operator MTS (MTSS.MM: Quote).

As of the end of March, the fund had made a gross return of 7.4 percent since the start of this year but was down 9.9 percent over the past three years.

Like other emerging markets, Russian equities have improved after a volatile start to the year. The Moscow stock exchange's dollar-denominated RTS index .IRTS is up 45 percent since its January lows on the back of higher oil prices and a strengthening of the rouble. The rouble-based MICEX .MCX is up 19 percent from January lows.

While economic sanctions imposed on Russia and a weak economy kept investors away over the past two years, the price of oil, the country's chief export, has stabilized in the past few weeks while some Western investors say they hope sanctions will be softened in the coming months.

Vaananen sees Russia's economy bottoming out during the second quarter and then starting to gradually recover, driven by declining inflation, falling interest rates and improving consumer confidence.   Continued...

Anna Vaananen, head of Credit Suisse's $60 million Russian Equity Fund, poses for a picture by the Kremlin wall in central Moscow, Russia, April 8, 2016. Picture taken April 8, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov