WANTED – THE RUSSIAN ALUMINIUM WARS WITHOUT ALUMINIUM, WITHOUT OLEG DERIPASKA

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Death can be a coincidence, but not in the Russian aluminium business.

So when Dmitry Bosov died of a pistol shot at his home near Moscow on the evening between May 5 and May 6, and Anatoly Bykov was arrested by federal agents in Krasnoyarsk on May 7, everyone with well informed suspicion asked if there is a connection to a Kremlin political calculation made at the highest level.

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US REPRIEVE FOR RUSAL DOES NOT RELIEVE PRESIDENT PUTIN OF FATAL CHOICE FOR OLEG DERIPASKA

By John Helmer, Moscow

There are two reasons why  the aluminium metal markets are not making long-term bets on the price of the metal, the alumina required to make it, and the share prices of the metal producers, including Russia’s aluminium monopoly United Company Rusal. The first reason is that the US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin (lead image, right) has decided to eliminate Rusal’s controlling shareholder, Oleg Deripaska (left), but leave Rusal to carry on its business without him.  The second reason is that President Vladimir Putin cannot make up his mind on whether to sacrifice Deripaska for the good of the company and Russia’s metal industry.  If Putin refuses Mnuchin’s deal, the US sanctions to put the company out of business, announced on April 6, will be enforced in full.  Pricing the consequences now of then is next to impossible.

According to Mnuchin’s statement on Monday, “RUSAL has felt the impact of U.S. sanctions because of its entanglement with Oleg Deripaska, but the U.S. government is not targeting the hardworking people who depend on RUSAL and its subsidiaries. RUSAL has approached us to petition for delisting.  Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are issuing a general license extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition.”

On Tuesday Putin responded  through his spokesman  Dmitry Peskov. “so far it is difficult to say how consistent our American counterparts are in their approach. We still consider these sanctions to be illegal. We believe that in relation to a single company such actions are akin to asset grabbing.” 

That is Deripaska himself doing the talking. The only man in Russia who thinks that state recovery of a heavily indebted asset from an oligarch is an asset grab is Deripaska. Putin has yet to disagree. Mnuchin has given Putin six months until October 23 to make up his mind. (more…)

UNALLOYED REFORM — SIX-POINT PLAN FOR RUSSIAN ALUMINIUM TO PROSPER, WITHOUT OLEG DERIPASKA

By John Helmer, Moscow

There are many Russian reasons why no Russian, man or woman, has trusted Oleg Deripaska (lead picture, on the wall), control shareholder and chief executive of the state aluminium monopoly Rusal (Russian Aluminium), for more than a few months at a time. The reasons have varied from business to business, contract to contract, individual to individual.  But now that the US Treasury has put Deripaska and Rusal out of business, one week before the Russian General Staff demonstrated that it can put the air forces of the US out of the attack business, the plan for the future of Rusal is simple.

There are six points under discussion in the Kremlin.  President Vladimir Putin must decide and  announce his running orders; appoint a Russian military officer with at least one tour under fire in Syria  to implement the orders;  and retire Deripaska from command of anything of state  importance.  

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ANCHORS AWAY FOR RUSAL, OLEG DERIPASKA IN SHARK FIN SOUP

By John Helmer, Moscow

When you are a Russian oligarch with a 20-year record of settling out of court with friends, partners and investors accusing you of deceit; when you have a 7-year record of failing to sustain your share value in a genuine stock market, what do you do next? You announce to a neophyte Financial Times reporter that you are selling your shares on the London Stock Exchange with the price underwritten by an anchor investor from China. The newspaper provides free advertising. Noone asks the Chinese anchormen why they are spending money on a business combining Russian electricity and Russian aluminium whose separate parts other Chinese investors have nixed many times before.

Answer: the deal is guaranteed by the Chinese and Russian states, with an assured premium in a secret buy-back option.  The Russian state aluminium monopoly Rusal, is now the Chinese-Russian state aluminium monopoly, plus the Siberian electricity utilities, Eurosibenergo and Irkutskenergo.   So long Oleg Deripaska (lead image)! Howdy-doo Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping!  

Hold on, says an insider familiar with the Rusal board deliberations:  “the London IPO which Oleg Vladimirovich is now promoting looks like a test of foreign investor resistance to sanctions, combined with a bet on the rising price of aluminium. Who in his sober mind would now invest into a fully state-controlled company such as Rusal or En+?  Only investors fully backed up or financed by the state. But is Deripaska sharing Kremlin control with Beijng control?  Unlikely — so this is a fake privatization, just like the Rosneft share sale.” (more…)

HANGING ON — OLEG DERIPASKA’S RUSAL FACES BILLION-DOLLAR DROP IN NIGERIA

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska, control shareholder of Rusal, the Russian state aluminium monopoly, is the leading investor of Russian funds in offshore businesses which have failed. He is also Russia’s largest corporate debtor.  Noone else in the circle of President Vladimir Putin has performed so improvidently and unpatriotically.

When the costs are counted of last month’s Nigerian High Court ruling against Rusal’s ownership of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon), and the ruling expected from the same court in Abuja next week, Rusal is facing a liability and compensation judgement amounting to $2.8 billion. That’s one-third of Rusal’s annual sales revenues; it’s also one-third of Rusal’s gross debt, and almost half its current market capitalization on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.   Not a single metals analyst or investment banker in Moscow dares to acknowledge the case, or analyse the risk now facing Rusal from the Nigerian courts and its government.  (more…)

RUSAL IS FOR SALE AS MIKHAIL PROKHOROV TRIES TO FIND A BUYER — WILL OLEG DERIPASKA LOSE RUSSIAN ALUMINIUM TO VICTOR VEKSELBERG AFTER A DECADE OF VALUE DESTRUCTION?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In “Any Old Iron”, a popular British music-hall song of a century ago, the cockney comedian Harry Champion made audiences laugh at the vanity of people showing off wealth they don’t have, and at pretentiousness in general. In our century there’s said to be a homosexual come-on in the words of the song, but they still mean the same thing — you aren’t worth what you say you are. This is the punchline: “Any old iron, any old iron, any, any, any old iron? You look neat, talk about a treat… But I wouldn’t give you tuppence for your old watch chain. Old iron, old iron.”

When Mikhail Prokhorov (lead image, right) announced last week that he wants to sell his 17.02% of United Company Rusal, the Russian state aluminium monopoly, he was asking the audience to believe the company controlled by Oleg Deripaska (left) is worth much more than it is. The market didn’t laugh or sing along. It did move more than the usual number of Rusal shares traded daily – 2.5 million – but the price went down by 4%. This means the market isn’t betting on Prokhorov to get his price.

In the Bloomberg version of what had happened, Prokhorov’s Moscow holding “made informal approaches in the past three months to sell its 17 percent stake to two other Rusal partners, Sual, a group led by billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, and Glencore Plc, the people said, asking not be identified because the discussions are private. No official talks were held because the two sides have different views on the value of the stake. While Onexim wants a premium to the current value, the potential buyers aren’t ready to offer it, the people said.”
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OLEG DERIPASKA TRIES FORCING RUSSIAN BEER OUT OF LEONID MIKHELSON’S, KIRILL SHAMALOV’S, AND GENNADY TIMCHENKO’S BOTTLE INTO RUSAL ‘S CAN

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska has launched an attack on Leonid Mikhelson, GennadyTimchenko and Kirill Shamalov in an oligarch showdown which President Vladimir Putin must decide, because Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev cannot. Not since 2008, when Deripaska appealed to Putin for support of his attempt to take Norilsk Nickel away from Vladimir Potanin, has there been a multimillion dollar contest like this, inside the Kremlin wall. Deripaska’s move also comes after two years of attempts by the US Government to force regime change in Moscow by attacking Putin, his family and his “cronies”.
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RUSAL COOKS ITS SHARE PRICE EVERY DAY – HONG KONG STOCK EXCHANGE OUT TO LUNCH

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Rusal announced on March 9 that its earnings for 2015 were up, and its profit too. But Rusal’s share price, listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, shot downwards by one of the largest one-day falls in months.

Hong Kong Exchange sources say the Rusal share is so illiquid, there is no real market demand, and so there is no response to good news – or to bad. Rusal insiders say the reason for this month’s share price collapse is that Moscow took a two-day holiday on March 7 and 8, and the company’s share operators were still asleep when the price in Hong Kong began to fall. They didn’t wake up in time to stop the decline, as they usually do in the Hong Kong afternoon, Moscow morning. If that sounds like stock price manipulation in violation of the exchange rules, the insider says it is.
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RUSAL WARMS THE BENCH AS ALUMINIUM PRICES DROP

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By John Helmer, Moscow

As the Kremlin’s apparatchik for the state aluminium monopoly, Oleg Deripaska (lead image), chief executive of United Company Rusal, has a personal price problem which threatens to turn into an income problem for Russians. If it does that, and loss of income turns into negative opinion polls and protest votes, Deripaska has a political problem with President Vladimir Putin.
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OLEG DERIPASKA OFFERS TO PAY MORE TAX FOR CLIMATE CHANGE — ASKS FOR KREMLIN TAX BREAKS INSTEAD

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By John Helmer, Moscow

On what the Paris Agreement for climate change (COP21) should have decided last Saturday, no Russian business figure has been as outspoken as Oleg Deripaska (lead image), chief executive and control shareholder of the Russian aluminium monopoly, Rusal.

“Balderdash”, Deripaska said of the agreement terms during a whistlestop interview with a British newspaper in Paris. “We all know that countries submit [emission cuts] as a way to do nothing, to wait for the next election. They do not want to be criticised, they do not want to deal with the substantial issues.” Concretely, he added: “there is no other solution. For us engineers and managers who run companies, for the financial community,  the only way [to reduce emissions] is to put in a global carbon tax. Seriously, it is carbon tax or die.”
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OLEG DERIPASKA LOSES TO MORGAN STANLEY IN NEW YORK COURT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A federal US judge and jury have dismissed a billion-dollar claim by Oleg Deripaska’s companies against investment bank Morgan Stanley after three years of litigation and two weeks of trial in a Manhattan courtroom. The jury verdict was announced on November 13.

The case is the first in which Deripaska, chief executive and control shareholder of Rusal, Russian Machines and Basic Element, and Gulzhan Moldazhanova, his closest aide for more than a decade, have testified under cross-examination in a US court. Commencing with an initial filing against several international banks on August 3, 2012, the case has continued for three years and three months. Before the trial opened on November 2, the presiding judge McMahon had dismissed six other banks listed as defendants in Deripaska’s claim, and rejected all but one of the charges against Morgan Stanley.
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OLEG DERIPASKA PLAYS SAMSON IN NEW YORK COURT, SUES DELILAH FOR HAIRCUT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Bible is clear on what horny musclemen like Samson should beware. If they want to go bed with Delilah types, they may wake up without their hair on.

Oleg Deripaska, control shareholder of the Russian aluminium monopoly Rusal and of Russian Machines, a holding of automobile and automotive component manufacturers, is suing Morgan Stanley, the US investment bank, for cheating him of billions of dollars of profit in order to make a quick profit itself of “tens of millions of dollars”. The claims, kept sealed by a New York federal court judge until recently, reveal inside dealing between Deripaska and Canadian businessman Frank Stronach, which Canadian investment institutions and the Canadian press had tried to oppose when their deal was first made in 2007.

Deripaska is now accusing Morgan Stanley of insider dealing in a jury trial under way this month. The trial has required Deripaska and his long-time money manager, Gulzhan Moldazhanova, to face cross-examination in a US court for the first time. Deripaska testified by videolink yesterday; Moldazhanova was on the stand on Monday and Tuesday.
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OLEG DERIPASKA AND IVAN GLASENBERG CAN’T GET IT UP, THE ALUMINIUM MARGIN, THAT IS – BUT IS THE LOVE AFFAIR OVER?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The commodity supercycle made an offshore fortune for Oleg Deripaska, control shareholder of United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly, and for Glencore, the Swiss combine which has financed and managed Rusal’s trade. But the cycle is now in reverse, as the markets accept that China’s economic performance will now trigger short-term booms and busts, keeping the price of aluminium low for the foreseeable future. Too low for the cost advantages to Rusal of the rouble crash to produce optimism for the company’s profitability as a global aluminium exporter.

In September Deripaska declared his first profit dividend in seven years. As an 8.75% stakeholder, Glencore’s share of the $250 million payout will be about $22 million. But Glencore chief executive Ivan Glasenberg’s parallel announcement of cuts to Glencore’s trade loans to its clients means that he is quietly asking Deripaska to pay more cash up front, both for trading commissions and interest on trade advances. How much is a secret Deripaska and Glasenberg aim to keep from the minority Russian shareholders in Rusal; and from the Russian government, which is pushing Rusal to refocus its business on the domestic trade in aluminium, for which Glencore is no longer necessary.
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OLEG DERIPASKA PUFFS RUSAL SHARE VALUE FOR DEBT NEGOTIATION WITH SBERBANK, VTB – GERMAN GREF UNIMPRESSED, SHARE PRICE COLLAPSES

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Insiders at the Russian aluminium monopoly Rusal say that chief executive and control shareholder Oleg Deripaska has been miscalculating the effect of share price surges Rusal has enjoyed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in recent weeks. That’s because the share price gains have been quickly reversed – and because Rusal’s most important lender, state owned Sberbank, is unpersuaded that the value of the company is gaining.

Sources on the Hong Kong exchange acknowledge a case officer has been assigned to monitor share trading of Rusal, and that he has been aware of abnormal trade volumes on several days in February and March, along with seesawing in the price of the share. But the Exchange chief executive, Charles Li, is reluctant to confirm what the exchange has done to uncover what happened and enforce exchange trading rules. The exchange is also afraid of being accused of covering up irregular trading practice and inside information. According to Li’s spokesman, Scott Sapp, “HKEx does not comment on individual companies or its regulatory actions.” Sapp then asked not to be named.
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UKRAINIAN BONER FOR OLEG DERIPASKA’S RUSAL

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In Ukrainian villages they still say a dog won’t cry if you beat him with a bone. In the Zaporozhye region of eastern Ukraine, there are exceptions – bones on which even dogs fear to choke. The Zaporozhye Alumina and Alumimium Combine (ZALK) is an example. Owned by the Russian aluminium monopoly, Rusal, it has been closed since 2009 because Rusal judges it is unprofitable to operate. That has been a bone of contention between Rusal and the Ukrainian authorities for almost a decade.

This week, the State Property Fund of Ukraine announced it has begun “enforcement proceedings by the executive service after the decision of the highest court to return the [ZALK] shares to the state. We are following the process.” The Ukrainian Supreme Court ruled on March 11 to renationalize Rusal’s shares in ZALK.

Oleg Deripaska (lead image, left), the chief executive of Rusal, says through a spokesman he will appeal the Supreme Court ruling in the international courts. Rusal is “a bona fide purchaser of the plant”, the company spokesman told a Moscow wire service.
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UMBRELLA STRATEGY KEEPS RUSAL AFLOAT, FAILS TO BREACH HK$6 THRESHOLD — OLEG DERIPASKA GAINS FROM UKRAINE WAR, SANCTIONS, AND RUSSIAN ECONOMIC CRISIS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska (left), chief executive of the Russian state aluminium monopoly Rusal, makes a practice of thriving when everyone else is suffering. That’s because the Russian government and the state banks cast a more protective cover over heavy debtors when times are bad than when times are better.

Rusal owes $9 billion, a sum that has been greater than its stock market capitalization for much of the past year. But since January 1 Rusal’s share price has been doing so well, the company has issued notices to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange claiming it is innocent of any hanky panky. If Deripaska isn’t protesting too much, what then is driving Rusal’s apparent recovery so far this year?
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THE MAGIC OF ALUMINIUM — RUSAL RECOVERY DEPENDENT ON RISING WAREHOUSE PREMIUM, AND CHINA

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By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the state aluminium monopoly run by Oleg Deripaska (lead image), has announced a third-quarter profit of $25 million, its first bottom-line in the black for three years. The company’s report explains the result by pointing to production cuts, the decline in costs of production, and a rise in the market price of aluminium.

In theory, the reason for the profit is that demand for Rusal metal is growing, and supply falling. “Healthy consumption growth,” Deripaska said on the company website last week, “coupled with production curtailments, have led to a deficit in the global market, ex-China, of 0.9 million tonnes of aluminium in the first nine months of the year. This, together with falling LME inventories, which have dropped below 4.5 million tonnes, means the deficit is continuing to widen. These positive market developments and our continued focus on cost controls and increasing margins through value added production have enabled UC RUSAL to report significantly improved third quarter results.”

In fact, Zug, London, and New York traders report, demand for physical metal is uncertain, especially inside China, while supply outside China is being restricted in warehouse by producers like Rusal, and traders allied with them. It remains more profitable to finance aluminium in storage than to sell to metal users and consumers. This is market manipulation, the traders say, pointing to Glencore, a minority shareholder in Rusal and Rusal’s principal trader. The fix isn’t stable and the revenue benefit for Rusal is neither certain nor predictable, the traders warn.
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OLEG DERIPASKA IN PENALTY SHOOTOUT WITH NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT — $461 MILLION GOAL

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By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly, has announced it has won a judgement of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) confirming its shareholding control of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon), the only aluminium producer in the west African state. The LCIA, Rusal claims, has defeated the Nigerian Government’s challenge to the legality of the privatization of the plant in Rusal’s favour in 2004, and Rusal’s subsequent purchase of Alscon shares in 2006.
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GEORGE SOROS TAKES AIM AT RUSAL — GERALD GROUP PROPOSES OUSTER OF RUSAL FROM GUINEA BAUXITE, ALUMINA CONCESSION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A combination of American and British commodity traders, aided by George Soros (lead image, left), is planning to oust United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly, from its Friguia bauxite and alumina concession in the west African Republic of Guinea. The plan, according to sources in London and Conakry, the Guinean capital, calls for the Guinean President Alpha Conde to revoke Rusal’s production agreement, according to the recommendations of an inter-ministerial group of officials known as the Comité Technique de Revue des Titres et Conventions Miniers (Technical Committee of Review of Mining Titles and Concessions). Conde is being urged by Soros to replace the Russians led by Rusal chief executive, Oleg Deripaska (lead image, right).

The Gerald Group, according to a London source, has a double-barreled target, aiming also at Rusal’s control of the Nikolaev Alumina Refinery (NGZ) in eastern Ukraine. Defending Rusal from the attack, says a source close to Rusal, is Glencore, the Switzerland-based global commodity trader, which is a minority stakeholder in Rusal and the financier of much of its aluminium and alumina trade.
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RUSAL NEGOTIATIONS FAIL IN GUINEA — ONCE AGAIN CONAKRY’S BILL IS MORE THAN $1 BILLION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the state aluminium monopoly controlled by Oleg Deripaska (right), has failed in a bid to ward off billion-dollar sanctions from Alpha Conde (centre), the President of Guinea, with an offer to start a cheap, new bauxite mine three years from now.

Sources in Conakry, the capital of the West African republic, have confirmed that an inter-ministerial committee, which has been reviewing the contract records for more than a decade of mineral resource concessions and mining agreements signed by earlier Guinean governments, has found Rusal to have under-paid and under-performed at its Friguia bauxite mine and alumina refinery. Word that the Technical Committee for Review of Mining Titles and Agreements (Comite Technique de Revue des Titres et Conventions Miniers, CTRTCM) was about to rule Rusal in violation and propose major financial penalties led Deripaska to despatch Victor Boyarkin to Conakry for talks to head off the committee’s recommendations.
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WHAT DO RUSAL’S INTERNATIONAL BANKERS KNOW THAT OLEG DERIPASKA HAS GONE TO COURT TO GAG?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal has admitted that one large international bank is refusing to accept the restructuring terms the company has offered for loans totaling $5.15 billion which fall due for repayment by July 7. Until now, there has been speculation that state-owned Chinese banks had been pressing for repayment in cash, rather than accept extension of the loan maturity date and other terms. On Friday, the holdout banks were identified by Rusal sources as Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is majority-owned by the UK Government; and the German bank WestLB, which has been in a form of bankruptcy management since June 2012. Today, Portligon, which has taken over WestLB, reportedly changed its mind, and accepted Rusal’s offer of terms.

The latest Rusal disclosures also provide for an international court to oblige the last holdout to accept another four to five months of negotiating time, thereby preventing it from pitching Rusal into default and bankruptcy next Monday.
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VICTOR BOYARKIN RETURNS TO RUSAL FOR A NEW TOP-SECRET ALPHA MISSION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Victor Boyarkin, the former lieutenant-colonel of Russian military intelligence and special operations chief for United Company Rusal, returned to the company on Monday after an absence of fifteen months. In Conakry, the capital of Guinea, his arrival is anticipated shortly for a fresh attempt by Oleg Deripaska, Rusal’s chief executive, to relieve new pressure on Rusal to reopen the Friguia (Fria) alumina refinery and bauxite mine, and spend several hundred million dollars committed earlier to investment in Guinea.

The Guinean President, Alpha Conde (image, right foreground), has started to prepare his presidential election campaign for the poll, which is due in less than a year’s time. In Friguia, where Rusal is the principal source of employment, the alumina refinery has been closed since 2012, and according to local sources, the city is “dead. People are starving, and only a heavy military presence can keep things quiet. Conde has nothing to show for his presidency, and unless he can persuade Rusal to reopen the refinery, he must persuade the Russians to make a large compensation to help the city.”
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OLEG DERIPASKA’S FUTURE AS PEKING DUCK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Multibillion dollar contracts between GlencoreXstrata and United Company Rusal, signed for trading of aluminium and alumina late in 2011, appear to have unravelled in a London arbitration court. However, because the arbitration has been conducted behind closed doors, Glencore is refusing to confirm or deny that the company is facing liability for a retrospective veto of their six-year $47 billion undertaking.

Glencore’s spokesman, Charles Watenphul for media and Paul Smith for investor relations, will not acknowledge that a ruling by the London Court of International Arbitration [LCIA] has upheld a veto of its Rusal contracts by Victor Vekselberg, the former chairman of the Rusal board and by SUAL Partners, a combination of Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik which holds an 8.75% shareholding in Rusal. The two Glencore spokesmen are also refusing to confirm or deny fresh evidence that Glencore has already paid SUAL Partners $80 million as their share of claims before the LCIA partially settled in January.
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OLEG DERIPASKA DOES THE HORA — THE ROMANIAN ADVENTURE THAT RAN CIRCLES AROUND RUSAL

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Oradea alumina refinery is a property of Oleg Deripaska’s in Romania. Deripaska (centre image) is the chief executive and controlling shareholder of United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly. Deripaska bought Oradea in 2000 over the unanimous objections of the senior management of Rusal in Moscow at the time. The company’s experts warned that Oradea would be too costly to operate, and of insufficient benefit to Rusal for its alumina needs to warrant the expense.

Since then the asset has all but disappeared from the balance-sheets of Deripaska’s holdings. His ownership of the plant is almost invisible in Romania itself. But the refinery is still there, shuttered and unsellable.
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MAGIC TRICKS TO CUT RUSAL DEBT — OLEG DERIPASKA ASKS MIKHAIL PROKHOROV TO SELL NIGERIAN SMELTER AWARDED BY THE COURTS TO SOMEONE ELSE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the state aluminium monopoly run by Oleg Deripaska, is selling the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon). Only the Rusal announcement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) doesn’t put a name to the asset. Rusal is also not accepting that the Nigerian courts have already decided the Alscon asset isn’t Rusal’s property to dispose of.

The decision to sell Alscon was reported to the exchange on April 8. The notice explains that the Jersey subsidiary of Rusal, RTI Limited, has hired Renaissance Securities to provide “financial advisory services in respect of a potential sale of shares of a subsidiary(ies) of the Company.” The services are to cost “up to USD10 million (including a fixed success fee of USD3 million and an incentive fee of up to USD7 million) for the entire term of the Mandate Letter, including any extended period of the term.”
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THE MONTENEGRO CRAP-SHOOT — OLEG DERIPASKA, RUSAL, AND THE PODGORICA ALUMINIUM COMBINE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A decade ago, before the Annie-get-your-gun ladies got control of US policy in Ukraine, their Hopalong Cassidy predecessors were in charge. Back then, the menfolk tried an identical combination of bribery and democracy-funding, the point of which was to make sure Serbians lost their right to go to their own beach – that is to say, Montenegro. If the children reading would go to bed immediately, it would be possible to reveal how the unconventional sexual orientation of Annie and Hoppy usually leads to such jolly, if not gay American combinations – bribery, democracy, and beaches.

The war between Moscow, Washington, and Brussels over Montenegro went to the wire on May 21, 2006, when 55.5% of Montenegrin voters approved their secession from Serbia, and applied for recognition, first as an independent state, then as a candidate member of the European Union (EU). Russian policy opposed the breakaway, backed the union with Serbia – rump of the former Yugoslavia – and offered Montenegrins a Russian cash-and-carry alternative to EU grants and conditions. The validity of the super-majority required for the US-EU option to carry was just 0.5% of the 419,236 votes cast – 2,096. In Podgorica, the country’s capital and site of the Podgorica Aluminium Combine (KAP), the US-EU vote came to 53.2%, not enough for the European option to prevail.
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GLENCORE TAKES A BATH WITH RUSAL — IS IVAN GLASENBERG INCOMPETENT, OR HAVE ERNST & YOUNG MISSED THE OBVIOUS?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Winston Churchill likened his inability to know what happens in Moscow to a case of bulldogs fighting under a rug. Ivan Glasenberg (right), chief executive of GlencoreXstrata, and Oleg Deripaska (left), chief executive of United Company Rusal — secretive though they are — are too fond of each other to fight. What they do under the rug is something else.

So when Glencore announced last week that it is marking its shareholding in United Company Rusal for sale at $394 million, 53% less than the year before, it’s clear that for Glencore the Rusal stake is a pup. Less obvious is it that when Glencore says it is selling Rusal, it means to do what it says.
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ROBBING PYOTR TO PAY PAVEL — THE VULNERABILITY OF RUSSIAN ASSETS IN UKRAINE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A new type of warfare is being tested in Ukraine. The strategem was first publicly disclosed on February 23, when Zbigniew Brzezinski — the wannabe Secretary of State if the Democratic Party wins the 2016 presidential election — proposed a billion-dollar levy on each of ten Ukrainian oligarchs. Brzezinski didn’t identify them by name, but suggested they were “principal beneficiaries of the country’s stunningly widespread corruption”. Another $10 billion, according to Brzezinski’s scheme, should be “matched” by the deposed president, Viktor Yanukovich, and his family.

Swiss sources reveal that the Swiss government and banks are under pressure right now to extend their freeze of the Yanukovich bank accounts to other Ukrainians on a US Government target list. Brzezinski’s proposal used the term “persuade” for his billion-dollar levy. The US Treasury has conveyed to the Swiss, as well as to banks of the European Union (EU), the targeting of as many Ukrainians as the new government in Kiev wants to threaten, especially if their business is concentrated in the eastern half of the country.
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RUSAL ORDERED TO TRIAL WITH NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT OVER SALE OF NIGERIAN ALUMINIUM SMELTER, BUT $2.8 BILLION DAMAGES CLAIM DELAYED

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By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly headed by Oleg Deripaska (image right), has won a fresh round in its battle to keep control of its Nigerian aluminium smelter, and ward off claims from a Nigerian-American group whom it defeated in the privatization of the asset almost a decade ago. For the time being, the Nigerian government, headed by President Goodluck Jonathan (left), will neither support Rusal, nor act against it. The indecisive Jonathan lost majority control of the Nigerian House of Representatives in December, and he faces an uncertain presidential election in a year’s time.

In a ruling of Nigerian High Court Justice Jude Okeke, issued in Abuja on January 27, the Nigerian Government’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice were ordered to face trial with Rusal in the corruption and damages claim by BFI Group Divino Corporation (BFIG). Rusal had asked the court to join the government to the case. BFIG opposed, arguing that in a separate proceeding the Nigerian courts had already ruled against the government, and in favour of BFIG. According to BFIG’s lawyer in court, Rusal’s move threatened to “open a floodgate for everyone who seeks to interrupt proceedings.”
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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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