Trade Notes: Stay Long Russia or Edge Towards the Door?

THE KREMLIN, MOSCOW. With President-Elect Dmit...
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Around 2007, Tim Rogers —  Valartis’ MC Russian Market Fund PM — said something very interesting about prospects in Russia.  He thought the days of making a killing just by picking under-appreciated Russian companies (i.e., pretty much any Russian company) were pretty much gone after the third level of privatizations.

Henceforth, the managers would have to make money the hard way:  by really working on picking the few remaining gems.  He’s no longer at Valartis, but it would be interesting to see how he would manage now. Continue reading “Trade Notes: Stay Long Russia or Edge Towards the Door?”

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Background: Whatever Happened to Tim Rogers?

Geneva at Night

Tim Rogers used to manage the MC Russian Market Fund for Valartis out of Geneva.  I first met him in 2005-6, invested in his fund(s) soon afterward and love the guy as a good solid manager who — perhaps unsurprisingly for a Canadian — is also a very nice guy.  He came to fund management and Russia investment in a rather roundabout way.

In the early/mid 90’s his girlfriend (he tells this story to a lot of investors, so I’m not breaching any confidences) wanted to travel overland from Hong Kong to Geneva.  A large part of this trip necessitated train travel through Yeltsin’s Russia.  The energy of the place then got him thinking about investing in the newly-privatized parts of Russian industry. Continue reading “Background: Whatever Happened to Tim Rogers?”

Background: Defining emerging markets: “The 7 per cent Club”

The BRIC Nations

Trust Goldman Sachs and their chief economist Jim O’Neill to come up with a nifty handle like BRIC.  Make no mistake, I like Jim O’Neill, he’s got an earthiness that belies a pretty sharp mind and I’ve always enjoyed listening to him.  Of course, sharp minds are par for the course at Goldy but Jim does have some pretty good strategic thinking brain cells.  At an intellectual level, you can’t argue with the reasoning that leads to this grouping.  But the cynic in me is always left cringeing at the the hype surrounding this bullshit.  What makes it worse is the way the people in the BRIC countries start believing all that guff.  Anyone who’s had to endure “India Shining” (or is it “Rising”?  Hard to tell with the gorge rising in one’s throat) will know what I mean.    Continue reading “Background: Defining emerging markets: “The 7 per cent Club””

Background: The Hermitage Saga Continues

Bill Browder. Photo courtesy: FT

Bill Browder’s saga in Russia continues.  This time, he’s convinced the Austrian authorities to look into the possible links Raffiesen Zentral Bank might have had with what ended up being the biggest tax fraud in Russian history.  If memory serves me right, after Bill had been kicked out of Russia, he’d taken the precaution of taking all physical documents out of Russia as well (I remember seeing them piled in boxes at his temporary offices near Covent Garden).  But hey, this is Russia, you can’t get away that easily.  Continue reading “Background: The Hermitage Saga Continues”

Background: Speaking of Bill Browder

I’ve known Bill Browder for a while as an investor.  He runs two Funds out of London now (the Hermitage Russia and Hermitage Global funds) but he used to have just one, run out of Moscow.  He started the Russia Fund, a deep value activist investor equity fund, around 1997 with USD 20 million or so (with I think half from Edmond Safra). The Fund promptly lost more than 90% in the ’98 crisis but Bill persevered and ended up doing spectacularly well.  Activist investing in Russia was really dangerous then, one target of Bill’s actually threatening to kill him in public. Continue reading “Background: Speaking of Bill Browder”