Why the Chelsea oligarch’s steel giant is losing no sleep over sanctions
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Thursday 28 August 2014
Outlook Russian steel giant Evraz says it has so far managed to steer clear of any sanctions or financial restrictions arising from the war in Ukraine.
Indeed, for readers of the FTSE 100 index firm’s half-year financial figures yesterday, it took a fair bit of scrutiny to find much mention of the crisis at all.
However, it’s there if you look hard enough, along with an admission that it is taking legal and professional advice to see how it might counter any sanctions that do arise.
A cynic might call this an attempt to gloss over what could be a major problem for the share price. After all, many other Russian giants – Rosneft and Lukoil to name but two – have reportedly struggled to find US and European banks willing to lend to them and been forced to resort to Russian lenders.
But, in Evraz’s case, it’s not so surprising that it appears relaxed about the situation.
Only a couple of weeks ago it managed to raise $425m (£256m) from European lenders including Deutsche Bank and Société Générale. That’s hardly a sign of Western wariness.
Why? Perhaps because Evraz’s board and shareholder base, while largely Russian, courts the West assiduously.
Its famous majority shareholder, Roman Abramovich, has such a high profile globally and in the UK from his ownership of Chelsea FC that it would be a bold move indeed for Downing Street to approve an EU attack on his investments.
His business partner and so-called “representative on earth”, Eugene Shvidler (whose Belgravia house boasts such luxuries as leather floors), is perhaps even more well-connected in London and sits on the Evraz board.
Meanwhile, Evraz’s senior independent non-executive director is Sir Michael Peat, the former Treasurer to the Queen of England, no less. Old Etonian Sir Michael is also a former Principal Personal Secretary to Prince Charles, to whom he still provides occasional financial advice.
Sir Michael is also a director at Conservative donor Michael Hintze’s CQS hedge fund and chairman of the charitable foundation of Wafic Said, the businessman famed for his close connections to the Thatcher government and his role in the Al Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
With such persuasive Establishment friends, little wonder Evraz is not overly concerned Westminster will turn against it.
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