MOSCOW BANK ISSUES MECHEL WARNING

By John Helmer in Moscow

In a report issued this week, Troika Dialog, a Moscow investment bank, warns that a combination of operating financial risks, debt problems, and new coalmine costs will impact negatively on Mechel, the fifth-ranked Russian steelmaker and leading coking-coal producer. The report comes after last week’s trading on the Moscow stock exchange had slashed Mechel’s share price by 19% to $3.93.

This week, Mechel has dropped another 8% to $3.62. The current market capitalization of the group is $1.5 billion, down by almost 90% since the start of this year — a bigger loss of value than has been suffered by its Russian peers.

The report by Troika steel analyst Mikhail Stiskin concludes that “the stock is trading at a premium to international and Russian peers on forward multiples, which in our view is not justified by the fundamentals. Mechel (ticker MTL:US) has considerable financial leverage and major capex commitments, stretching its balance sheet and exerting pressure on cash flows. We also see a risk of significant losses in the group’s steel division, which is well known for its earnings volatility, and note that a big chunk of the company’s value is represented by the Elga [coalmine] project, which has serious execution risks.”

Mechel, which is controlled by Igor Zyuzin, has been reorganized into three semi-autonomous groups for steelmaking, ferrous alloys (including nickel), and mining (including coal and iron-ore). Earlier in the year, Zyuzin had been planning to spin off and separately list the alloys and mining divisions, in part to recoup the multi-billion dollar costs of the acquisition this year of the chrome mining and refining assets of Oriel Resources; and the purchase at a a state privatization auction in October 2007 of the Elgaugol and associated coal deposits in the fareastern region of Sakha. The ferroalloy and coal transactions cost $1.5 billion and $2 billion, respectively.
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KREMLIN INTERVENTION, CHINA DEMAND TO STABILIZE RUSSIAN NICKEL PRODUCER

By John Helmer in Moscow

Russia’s leading mining company, and one of the leading suppliers of nickel to China’s stainless steelmills, may be facing further revenue and profit cuts in 2009, as the international nickel price continues to fall, and inventories of the metal grow.

However, political intervention by the Kremlin has ended a hostile takeover attempt aim,ed at Norilsk Nickel (ticker GKMN:RU) by Oleg Deripaska’s aluminium company, Rusal, allied with a former shareholder in Norilsk Nickel, Mikhail Prokhorov. A new 13-man board lineup, voted by Norilsk Nickel shareholders under Kremlin supervision last Friday, rejected Prokhorov’s bid for election, and limited Deripaska to 4 out of 13 seats.

An alliance between government nominees and controlling shareholder, Vladimir Potanin’s Interros group, provides a 7-man majority of votes on the new board, thereby ending months of uncertainty and conflict.

The Norilsk Nickel share price has responded this week, climbing 3% in Monday trading in Moscow and New York to $67; this is a gain of 9% on the week.

At the same time, the LME price of nickel has continued testing early-December lows; it is currently ranging between $9,755 and $9,925 per tonne. It is exceptional for Norilsk Nickel’s share price to move up when the nickel commodity price is coming down. The correlation between the two was suspended in the middle of the year when conflict between the three major shareholders of the Russian company, Potanin, Prokhorov, and Deripaska reached its peak.
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HOGG’S HORSE — THE END OF MINEWEB AS WE KNOW IT

Dancing Bears

By John Helmer in Moscow

Before the global collapse of mine commodities and mining equities in the autumn of 2008, Mineweb, the Johannesburg-based mining publication, suffered a meltdown in asset valuation. Then, in July 2008, it incurred the worst cash loss in the publication’s history.

The publisher and editor-in-chief of Mineweb is Alec Hogg. With Louise Hogg — his ex-wife, now a resident of Ireland — Hogg is the controlling shareholder of Moneyweb, the South African listed company (ticker MNY:SJ), which owns Mineweb. Each of the Hoggs individually holds a 24.4% stake. The single largest shareholder, with 25.1%, is Mvelaphanda, the South African conglomerate controlled by Tokyo Sexwale. According to Mvela’s representative on the Moneyweb board, Lindikhaya Sipoyo, the explanation for what has happened at Mineweb is still “in discussion”.

Hogg has told public shareholders that the cost of a defamation case, brought against Mineweb in London by Sergei Generalov, a Russian owner of a Georgian mining company called Madneuli, caused the cash loss. Hogg hasn’t disclosed his own role in the affair, or explained how it happened that, nine months before the settlement was announced, Hogg himself had refused to negotiate a no-cost deal with the Russian.

Nor has Hogg explained to shareholders that over several years, he has actively sought international sale offers for Mineweb, rejecting three in a sequence when each one elicited a significantly lower price than its predecessor. The first offer was for $5 million, according to the man whom Hogg asked to arrange the sale. The second was for more than $2 million; and the third, negotiated in London this past June, was for $1.5 million. Hogg initially accepted each of them; only to change his mind, and then refuse.
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KREMLIN RESCUE RISKS SWAMPING THE BOAT

By John Helmer in Moscow

A Russian government effort to end special lobbying by major company shareholders, chief executives, sector cabinet ministers, and regional governors has either just ended; or else it has failed, because there isn’t enough government cash or credit for to satisfy everyone, and the political cost of saying no to some of the applicants is too high for the Kremlin to acknowledge publicly.

The Russian government website published yesterday a list of 295 companies, which have been identified as approved by a government commission on stabilization measures in the current crisis. The practical meaning of the approval list is unclear, however.

The commission has been headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina. Their committee was appointed by President Dmitry Medvedev. According to a public statement by Shuvalov, a total of Rb3.2 trillion ($110 billion) may be required to prevent widespread insolvency and company collapse.

Russian reports indicate the new list was modified in discussions with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his deputy, Igor Sechin, whose proposal for the approved companies was different. Putin chairs the board of Vnesheconombank (VEB), which has been issuing bailout loans to Russian companies facing heavy foreign debt redemptions. Sechin is in charge of the energy, mining and natural resource sector, and chairman of the board of Rosneft, Russia’s leading oil company.
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GAS EXPORTERS AGREE ON MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

By John Helmer in Moscow

A meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Moscow this week has agreed on an organizational charter and a new headquarters, but stopped short of including all the gas exporting majors, and did not attempt to introduce a scheme for price controls for gas exports. But there was a quiet surprise the media have overlooked.

Western press coverage of the meeting focused on the price control issue, which the attending ministers dismissed as impossible to implement, and not on their agenda. “The difference between OPEC and the forum is very simple,” the Algerian energy minister Chekib Khelil was reported as saying. “OPEC looks at today, what happens on the market and makes the decision. The [gas] forum, of course, looks on today because it has to, but it’s more forward looking. It cannot control the volumes and price for the next 10 years because it’s locked into long-term contracts and also the price of gas is locked into oil.” Khelil is also president of the Orgganization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The Moscow session of GECF fell short of representing all of the world’s leading gas exporters, since Brunei, Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates did not attend.

The top-3 gas producing countries in Moscow — Russia, Iran and Qatar — control an estimated 59% of global gas reserves; the missing group, including the US, which has shunned the GECF from the start, controls about 13%.
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GUINEA PRESIDENT’S DEATH THREATENS RUSAL CHAIN OF PRODUCTION

By John Helmer in Moscow

The sudden death, announced Tuesday, of Guinea’s 25-year president, Lansana Conte, threatens to uproot United Company Rusal from its lucrative bauxite mining concessions in the west African republic of Guinea. The bauxite reserves, whiuch Rusal controls, are among the largest and most valuable in the world, and are vital to supply Rusal’s aluminium smelters.

A threat to the longstanding Russian position in Guinea creates a new opportunity for Chinese aluminium concerns, as well as for Middle East and North American rivals.

“While Lansana Conte is the president of Guinea, I don’t think anything could happen with Rusal’s licenses there,” said a Moscow specialist on African politics, Vladimir Zaitsev, president of Rosafroexpertiza. He was speaking in November, when Conte, who has been ailing for many years, was still alive. Conte, he added, was “well-known for supporting Rusal there.” Earlier this year, Zaitsev added, Rusal’s involvement in accidents that caused chemical and oil spills “went unnoticed, and with the help of President Conte, the local regulatory commissions created to investigate went nowhere.”

Wire service reports from the Guinean capital Conakry indicate that, following the announcement of Conte’s death in the evening of December 22, a group of Guinean soldiers forced entry into the state radio headquarters, and broadcast a communique, declaring the constitution and government institutions suspended. The statement claimed a ruling council will be installed shortly to name a president, prime minister and a new government to fight corruption.
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JUDGE IN TAJIK ALUMINIUM CASE ACCUSED HERBERT SMITH LAWYERS

By John Helmer in Moscow

Herbert Smith is the large London-based law firm whose role in representing the Tajikistan Aluminium Company (Talco) has helped set one of the highest fee-charging cases in the UK High Court in recent history. The law firm also helped itself to some of the judge’s personal notes and papers in the case. That discovery led Justice Stephen Tomlinson to publicly rebuking Herbert Smith’s counsel in the case, Murray Rosen, just days before the case was settled out of court on November 27.

The UK High Court case began as a claim by Talco alleging fraud and mismanagement by Avaz Nazarov and others, who traded with the plant until they were ousted at the end of 2004. Nazarov filed a counter-claim, accusing the Talco management of fraud, forgery, and a scheme to force the plant to operate at a loss, while the profits of its aluminium exports were channeled through companies in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

International banks, and the US and Norwegian governments, have become embroiled in the affair.

In June of this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a public report ordering an independent international audit of Talco’s accounts, and charged the company with “most worrisome financial operations [which] remain nontransparent.” The IMF also ordered the establishment of “a special monitoring unit at the ministry of finance”, whose mandate will include identification in Talco’s books of “untapped tax revenues and hitherto hidden contingent liabilities.”
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RUSSIAN MINING REGULATOR TAKES MINISTRY TO COURT

By John Helmer in Moscow

Oleg Mitvol, Russia’s well-known mining regulator and gadfly to AIM-listed stock values, has filed a half-dozen lawsuits in Moscow, challenging the terms of his removal from his functions. And he appears to have Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin on his side.

The legal and political moves follow months of effort by Vladimir Kirillov, the new chief of Russia’s mine licence inspectorate, Rosprirodnadzor, has tried to fire Mitvol, his independent deputy. In the annals of the federal Ministry of Natural Resources, Mitvol’s resistance is unique; as is the apparent reluctance of the minister, Yury Trutnev, a former provincial governor backed by the LUKoil oil company, to intervene in the contest of wills, and in the conflict below the surface of Russia’s use-or-lose resource licensing policy.

On June 18, the state newsagency Itar-Tass reported that Mitvol had been “stripped of his water, forest and ecological supervision powers, which have constituted most of his competences”. This was the first sign of an apparent official decision, following informal efforts by Kirillov, commencing in February, to press Mitvol to resign. An anonymous source was cited by Itar-Tass for its information. It was also reported that “according to the source, the Rosprirodnadzor chief, Vladimir Kirillov, has no intention of submitting a motion to Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev for re-appointing Mitvol as his deputy.” Itar-Tass confirmed Mitvol as saying: “As far as I know, in a future staff list, yet to be authorized, the position of a fourth deputy, that is, of yours truly, is absent.”
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MECHEL’S HAPPY TALK FAILS TO DRIVE DEBT THREAT AWAY

By John Helmer in Moscow

Mechel, the fifth-ranked Russian steelmaker and leading coal miner, lost 2.6% from its New York-listed share price as the market failed to react positively to this week’s company’s release of nine-month financial results. The Mechel group’s market capitalization is currently $2 billion. It was twelve times larger, $24.4 billion, when the share price hit peak on May 19 of this year.

Mechel is one of the leading Russian suppliers to China of coking coal and iron-ore concentrate, which are shipped from Posyet, a company-owned port close to the North Korean border.

The state guarantee implied in the award of a $2 billion loan from Vnesheconombank (VEB) — reported in the Moscow press at the start of December, but not confirmed by the bank or the company — has also failed to lift confidence in Mechel. One reason may be that VEB has so far refused to lend the money.

A company-inspired press leak on December 1 claimed that VEB had given “preliminary approval” to the big loan. According to VEB announcements last month, it has undertaken to process loan approvals within 18 days of application. In Mechel’s case, the deadline has now passed. Three weeks after the press leak, according to Mechel spokesman, Ilya Zhitomirsky, the company is not confirming or denying whether it applied for the VEB loan. Nor is Mechel saying whether it will get the VEB money.
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RUSSIA KEEPS ITS VIRGINITY FROM OPEC

By John Helmer in Moscow

Russia kept its observer’s status at this week’s summit conference of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and avoided taking the plunge into membership of the international oil cartel that was hinted at by the Kremlin last week.

At the same time, the Kremlin is playing a siren song to attract greater coordination of the international gas trade when the cartel of gas producers meet to hold hands in Moscow next Tuesday, December 23.

The new OPEC cut of 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in output quota will not be supplemented by a fresh Russian cut, although Igor Sechin, the deputy prime minister in charge of the oil sector, announced at the meeting in Algeria that if crude prices do not start to recover next year, Russia will cut export volumes by another 320,000 bpd, following the 350,000 bpd export cut in November.

The projected cut looks likely to occur whatever Sechin says, because falling prices have reduced incentives to produce among the smaller Russian producers, and the majors are also cutting back on field expansions, and delivering more of their crude to domestic refineries, instead of to the ports for export as crude.

The Russian move was considerably less than the 400,000 bpd cut OPEC members had sought. Also, Russia has not agreed to a specific cut by a specific date, as the OPEC countries have done. Industry sources note that it is more difficult for Russia, compared to leading OPEC members like Saudi Arabia, to close down producing wells, as the harsh operating conditions in Siberia make it difficult to recommission the wells later.
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LAST BLUFF, LAST GASP — DE BEERS THREATENS TO ABANDON ARCHANGEL DIAMOND PROJECT

By John Helmer in Moscow

A 21-day ultimatum has been issued to the Russian government to put up the Grib pipe in Arkhangelsk for development by a joint venture between De Beers and LUKoil; or else De Beers will walk out of Russian diamond mining for good.

Sources close to De Beers claim that some senior executives in London are bluffing, in order to halve the $100 million payment which De Beers must pay LUKoil, if the agreement is finalized with the Kremlin by December 31. These executives believe that falling global demand, declining diamond prices, and a growing shortage of cash oblige De Beers to seek a modification of the terms of agreement, signed with LUKoil in mid-April. But some De Beers executives are more reportedly pessimistic. After a recent review of project costs, they are proposing to abandon the Arkhangelsk project altogether, and expect that LUKoil and the Russian government will oblige them by ignoring the ultimatum’s New Year deadline.

The ultimatum came in a press release from De Beers’s Toronto subsidiary, Archangel Diamond Corporation (ADC), labeled “notification of a Termination Event”.
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INDIAN BID TO PAY PREMIUM FOR RUSSIAN OIL GOES TO THE WIRE

By John Helmer in Moscow

The Indian government has until midnight to decide whether to pay a huge premium for undeveloped Siberian oil reserves held by one of the most highly leveraged oil companies in the Russian market. Yesterday, the UK Takeover Panel refused to extend the deal deadline beyond today. The oil is located in the Tomsk region, near the Chinese border, China and Japan have better chances of receiving the crude than India. Imperial Energy Corporation, a London listed company, owns the oilfield development licences, and controls the oil, which is still running at a trickle. In July, Imperial accepted a takeover offer from the Indian state group, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), for GBP1.4 billion ($2.1 billion). Since then, President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have given their approval.

They, however, may be backing Gazprom and Rosneft, both state owned, to buy a control share of Imperial from ONGC, in a second, and hitherto undisclosed transaction. That, it is speculated, is one reason the Indian bid has not been lowered to close the $800 million gap that has opened up between the original bid, and today’s market value of Imperial at $1.3 billion. According to ONGC, it must secure fresh sources of crude oil, outside India, to meet the demand. ONGC also defends its premium offer by forecasting $100 per barrel pricing for oil in future. So far, however, ONGC’s oil import replacement scheme has resulted in equity stakes in Russian assets, without dividends, and not oil that can be loaded on tankers.

EVRAZ BOARD RESHUFFLE SHOWS ABRAMOV, ABRAMOVICH UNDER PUTIN’S THUMB

By John Helmer in Moscow

A surprise board reshuffle announced on Wednesday by the Evraz group, Russia’s largest steelmaker, has triggered a sharp negative market reaction. It has fueled speculation that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the board of the state bailout bank, Vnesheconombank (VEB), are unhappy with the way in which Evraz has heavily leveraged its Russian mills, in order to buy North American assets, and is threatening more active state supervision of the company’s operations.

Evraz’s share price was cut 8.3% in Wednesday trading in Moscow, while other Russian steel majors remained largely unchanged, and the index as a whole dropped less than 3% on the day. The reaction against Evraz came after the company issued a statement that its board had elected former controlling shareholder, Alexander Abramov, to be chairman of the board, replacing Alexander Frolov.

The board move is a fresh sign of Kremlin displeasure at the way the oligarchs running Russia’s steel business have enriched themselves at the expense of the domestic economy. Evraz is currently producing steel at about 60% capacity at its Russian mills, having cut output and employment more sharply in Russia than in its operations outside Russia. Two of the Russian mills, Nizhny Tagil and Zapsib, were forced to admit last month that they lack the cash to pay their tax bills, and have had to borrow $360 million to cover their obligations. This is in addition to the VEB loan of $1.8 billion, confirmed by the company on November 27. The first tranche of $201.3 million has already been drawn.
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GUNVOR’S PIPE DREAM STARTS TO COME TRUE

By John Helmer in Moscow

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has finally put in writing what Gunvor owner, Gennady Timchenko, has been lobbying the Kremlin to support for several years, ousting Transneft pipeline boss, Semyon Vainshtok, in the process. This is a new state-backed crude oil pipeline for the purpose of putting in business a new, Gunvor-owned tanker loading terminal at Ust-Luga, just 80 kilometres across the Gulf of Finland from Primorsk, Russia’s main Baltic oil outlet.

Why Ust-Luga? Gunvor declines through a spokesman to say. Putin’s order, signed this week, authorizes the design and construction of the BPS-2 (Baltic Pipeline System) pipeline that will pump crude from Unecha in the Bryansk region, about 900 kilometres northwards to Ust-Luga. Initial capacity in the Gunvor plan is for 600,000 barrels daily to be ready for tanker loading in 2012. A second stage of the plan, doubling capacity to about 1.2 million bd, is also on the drawing-boards. But the cost of the first stage has jumped from $2 billion, estimated when Transneft’s CEO Vainshtok was opposing Timchenko two years ago, to about $4.8 billion today.

The Geneva-based oil trader has been building the dominant trade position for Russian export crude, and in parallel with increasing the volumes it takes to market, the closely held company has been expanding its positions in rail transportation of oil, port loading, and tankering through ties to Sovcomflot, Russia’s state owned tanker group.
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NEVER SAY EVER — RUSSIAN MINING RECOVERY DELAYED UNTIL THE LOOTING STOPS

By John Helmer in Moscow

In theory, Russia’s economic performance is correlated with global supply and demand for mined materials and commodities, and thus with the rate of global economic growth, especially China.
In the Russian market, 80% of earnings come from commodity stocks. Before the collapse, the enormous gains in market capitalization of Russian producers and exporters of gas, oil, nickel, copper, aluminium, iron-ore, coal, steel, potash, nitrogen fertilizers, and precious metals showed how dependent Russian asset value was on the belief that global demand was in an unstoppable super-cycle, sustained by China.

In addition, the valuation of the ruble itself is dependent on commodity prices; at low oil prices, the ruble needs to fall in order to counter the terms of trade shock. Therefore, the easy forecast for 2009 is that the market will remain subject to the global growth cycle, as everyone could see when it bottomed out in 1998 and 200, and bounced back over 2003-2007.

The not so easy question, then, is whether or not Russia will start to move up faster or slower than the rest of the world — as a leader or a laggard in the recovery cycle. The International Energy Agency (IEA) argues that the underlying shortage of crude oil supply in the market is so significant that as soon as global growth returns, the oil price will rise. As the oil price is the principal variable for Russia’s macro position, and one of the few reliable sources of tax revenue for the Russian state budget, the market should be expected to react positively and rapidly.
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RED HAS TURNED YELLOW – THE GREEK AND CYPRIOT COMMUNISTS ARE FLYING A DIFFERENT FLAG IN THE UKRAINE WAR



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.

In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration:  “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”

By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”

 To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.

A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”

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IF IT SMELLS ALLURING, IT’S RUSSIAN – IN WARTIME L’ORÉAL (FRANCE) AND ESTÉE LAUDER (US) MAKE A BAD SMELL



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour  of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.

Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.”    Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the  6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.    

Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected,   Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.  

The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.

Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.

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THE WAR AGAINST FOOD – WHO IS TO BLAME



By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the  Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving  grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world.  Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.  

The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery  now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.

Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.”  Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.  

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EXILE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.

Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”

The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire,  the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.  

In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010.  The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”

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IN THE FOG OF WAR THERE’S THE GUTERRES CERTAINTY AND THE CADIEU CERTAINTY – GORILLA RADIO SEES THROUGH THE COVER-UP



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month  to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders,  knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.   

Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.

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DID UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES COMMIT A WAR CRIME AT AZOVSTAL?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.

In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”  

This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention.  In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.  

Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials,  to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.

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THE LAST DITCH IS POLAND – RUSSIA’S PHASE-3 PLAN FOR WESTERN UKRAINE



By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO  hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.

“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”.  He means the Ukraine border is the red line.

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THE MATLIN PLOT, THE BROWDER PLOT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES PLOT



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*
  @bears_with

Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.

US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11   highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.

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YELLOW COAL, THE FUEL MADE OUT OF RACE HATRED — MAY DAY MESSAGE FROM SIGIZMUND KRZHIZHANOVSKY, 1939



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.

Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.

The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other.  Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilification of society.

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IS CAESARISM THE PROBLEM, THE SOLUTION, A FANCY DRESS COSTUME, OR A PROPAGANDA CARTOON?



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them.  It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.

When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.

While his wife and the Navy officer  who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion,  or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.  

The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.

What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States,  is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken;  and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase.  But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.  

Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”

In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.

With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”,  is just the ticket from now to then.

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