An application by three of Russia’s most powerful steelmakers to have the government impose penalty duties on imports of coated steel, primarily from China, has failed. This is the first sign from the Kremlin that applications by Russian steelmakers that threaten political and trade relations with Beijing, and risk Chinese retaliation, will not be allowed.
On August 26, the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Moscow announced that it will not raise import duties, and that a study of the coated-steel market in Russia had not substantiated the claims of domestic injury, filed in March by Severstal, Novolipetsk Metallurgical Combine (NLMK), and Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK).
The main sources for imported polymer-coated steel in 2008 were China, Taiwan, South Korean, Belgium, Finland, and Kazakhstan. Roughly half of the domestic consumption of the product was supplied by imports during 2008. Last December, according to a briefing the steelmakers gave a Moscow newspaper in March, when the ministry’s import study commenced, the Russian mills shipped 55,000t of polymer-coated steel, while imports were roughly equal in volume. (more…)
The Far Eastern Shipping Company (Fesco), owned by Sergei Generalov, is likely to run a loss of at least $72 million this year, before foreign exchange losses and writedowns are counted, according to a new report on the company issued today by Moscow investment bank, Renaissance Capital. With total debt of $915 million — $215 million to be repaid before December 31 — RenCap analyst Alexander Kazbegi forecasts that Fesco’s liner business will see revenues fall by 36% on last year; the port division’s revenues will drop by 70%; and the rail division’s revenues will fall by 36%.
In reaction, Kazbegi reports Fesco as telling him the company intends to sell as many vessels as it can “while there is still a market for them despite prices being currently some 50% lower than in 1H08”. It has cancelled a plan for $100 million in newbuild orders, and is delaying delivery of four newbuild contracts from 2010 to 2011. According to Kazbegi, Fesco intends to delay, and in time possibly cancel commitments to build a new container terminal at Ust-Luga, and buy the 50% stake it doesn’t own in the Vladivostok Sea Port and Vladivostok Container Terminal.
The Rencap report also reveals that the dwindling value of Fesco’s fleet may breach loan covenants and trigger fresh problems with banks.
Novorossiysk Commercial Seaport Company (NCSP is the London ticker), the only internationally listed Russian port, crashed Friday [August 7] by almost 6% in Moscow stock market trading, despite a stable report and ratings confirmation from Standard & Poors. S&P’s August 6 report said that continuing growth of Russia’s seaborne trade on the export side, especially of oil and grain, supports a stable outlook for the Black Sea port, with rising cargo volumes, improving revenues, higher cashflows, and a modest decline in debt. Taken cumulatively, S&P said it is reconfirming the port company’s BB+ issuer rating.
However, S&P warned that NCSP “lack[s] sophisticated corporate governance”, adding that the “concentrated ownership structure poses additional risks to creditors. Existing corporate governance provides some protection, but doesn’t fully balance inherent conflicts of interest.” S&P fails to say what the port company’s ownership structure is.
The company’s financial report for 2008, released this past April, also does not clarify the shareholding split between Alexander Ponomarenko (picture) and Alexander Skorobogatko, who are identified in auditor’s notes, along with their families, as “the ultimate controlling parties”. The company’s annual report indicates that they hold 50.01% through Kadina, an offshore registered company. This also suggests that since the initial public share offering in London in 2007, NCSP’s free float amounts to about 18.3%. Another 20% stake is owned by the Russian state, but this appears to be under control of the state-owned Russian Railways Company (RZD). This leaves about 12% of the shares unaccounted for, but described in the annual report as unidentified minority shareholders. (more…)
Far Eastern Shipping Company (Fesco), Russia’s fleet leader for dry cargo and containers, is headed for an even bigger year-end loss than industry analysts or the company have acknowledged before.
A new report, issued on August 7 by Moscow investment bank Renaissance Capital, predicts that group revenues will fall 41% to $1.2 billion; earnings down by 61% to $128 million; and the net income line will turn to a loss of $72 million. This is double the loss estimated by Troika Dialog bank in June.
Owned and managed by Sergei Generalov, Fesco’s struggle with fleet writedowns and net debt of $934 million has postponed a new loan approval by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; and triggered, according to Rencap analyst Kirill Kazanli, “a breach of some [loan] covenants…While we believe FESCO is likely to successfully renegotiate those, it has essentially cut capex [capital expenditure] to zero, not making any acquisitions, selling some of its assets (mostly ships) and trying to hoard cash.” (more…)
The last time Russia was obliged to teach strategy to the ruling powers of the Baltic Sea — in the 18th century, they were the Swedes – at the Battle of Grengam (pictured), the Russians claim they won. But so do the Swedes. The outcome, however, was that the Swedish navy could no longer hope to bottle up the Russian fleet in the Gulf of Finland.
For the next three hundred years, there have been two constants in Russia’s Baltic Sea strategy that don’t change with the vicissitudes of who’s in or out of power in the Kremlin, or along the Baltic littoral.
One is that for its economic prosperity and security, Russia must find as many alternatives as possible to the high seas of the Baltic for getting its goods to and from market. As volumes of energy exports rise, that means finding ways around, under, or over the NATO-controlled chokepoint of the Danish Straits. (more…)
This was said in the Court of Appeal in London on July 21, by Geoffrey Vos QC, arguing the case on behalf of Deripaska’s former patron and founding stakeholder, Michael Cherney (Mikhail Chernoy), that Deripaska should face trial in England on Cherney’s charges that Deripaska has violated their contract, and improperly taken Cherney’s 20% stake in the founding company of the Russian Aluminium (Rusal) group.
Deripaska is chief executive and controlling shareholder of Rusal. He had sought a ruling from the appeal court to withdraw jurisdiction over the case from the UK to Russia. London jurisdiction is claimed by Cherney, an Israeli citizen, because his shareholding agreement with Deripaska was negotiated and signed there; because the contract specified the application of UK law; because both he and Deripaska have homes and businesses there; and because UK law provides for jurisdiction when a litigant would be deprived of a fair trial if the litigation was held elsewhere. The ruling, against which Deripaska was appealing, said: “Neither party has suggested that they will suffer significant prejudice if the trial takes place here…I am persuaded that the risks inherent in a trial in Russia (assassination, arrest on trumped up charges and lack of a fair trial) are sufficient to make England the forum in which the case can most suitably be tried in the interests of both parties and the ends of justice and, accordingly, the proper place for the determination of this claim.” (more…)
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 bilificationof society.
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.