Russian phone firm in pounds 726m UK listing

THE MOBILE phone company owned by one of Russia's richest men yesterday raised $1.35bn (pounds 726m) from taking a listing in London, in the biggest ever fund-raising from capital markets by a Russian business.

The secondary listing in London, of a 17 per cent stake, valued Sistema at $8.2bn as the dollar-denominated issue was two-and-a-half times over- subscribed. The float values Vladimir Evtushenkov's remaining 65 per cent stake at more than $5bn, making him one of Russia's 10 richest men.

Analysts said the listing showed global investors were keen on Russia, despite the attack by the Kremlin on Yukos, formerly Russia's biggest oil company. Unusually, Sistema is a play on the consumer sector, whereas most international interest has been in the country's bountiful natural resources.

Eric Kraus, the chief strategist at Sovlink Securities in Moscow, said the float "shows that Western portfolio investors are now buyers of Russian assets". It is understood that Sistema shares were bought not just by specialist emerging markets funds but by big international investors. Around 40 per cent of the demand came from UK institutional investors, with 30 per cent from the US and around a quarter from Europe.

Sistema is a conglomerate. As well as owning half of mobile operator Mobile TeleSystems, Sistema controls Moscow fixed-line operator MGTS, and has other businesses spanning technology, banking and property. It also owns the Detski Mir children's goods chain.

Mr Evtushenkov is not seen as a classic Russian "oligarch". Though he did benefit from the controversial privatisations in the 1990s, he was not involved in the energy sector. He also created much of his business empire from scratch and is seen as close to the Mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, who enjoys a power base independent of the Kremlin.