Russia and Britain: business speaks out

Alex Bertolotti
Partner and head of the Russia & CIS Business Centre for PriceWaterhouseCoopers Russia

The political and economic relationship between the UK and Russia at the moment is better than it has been at any point over the past three years. This is signalled by David Miliband’s visit and the ISC meeting with Alexei Kudrin.

If you look at the growth plans of Barclay’s bank, HSBC and those of the Aviva insurance company, it is clear that Russia is a place of economic interest for British companies.

What I think would be great is if we saw Russian companies and financial services institutions coming to the UK. And, hopefully, in the next few years that will start to happen even more.

In the West there continues to be a negative perception of Russia and I think this is one of the biggest issues – educating the West to the realities of Russia from an economic perspective.

I am not saying everything is perfect – what we see with the bureaucracy, red tape, corruption, etc – however, the picture in the West is probably worse than the reality. To get a complete picture of the internal business environment, one has to spend time in Russia.

Doran Doeh
Managing partner of the Moscow office of law firm Denton Wilde Sapte

When [Tony] Blair predicted in 2007 that certain Russian policies might lead to a decrease of foreigners willing to do business in Russia, it quickly became apparent that this was complete rubbish. Until the crisis took hold in earnest, bankers were only too willing to lend to Russian businesses, and Russian securities issues were taken up with alacrity in the London markets. The reduction in foreign investments has been linked to the world financial crisis, when cross-border investments everywhere decreased, and not to the worsening of diplomatic relations.

I do expect a general pick-up in activity next year. However, I am well aware that Russia is not the simplest place for doing business and this fact certainly affects the outlook of many major international players that haven’t yet entered the Russian market. Russia needs to improve its conditions for both foreign and domestic businessmen in terms of making the process of setting up and doing business here easier and more secure.

Don Scott
president of IT consultant Avant-Garde Communications

David Miliband’s visit to Moscow was short, and he didn’t get to see that many people. From a business perspective, I would like it to have been a longer visit, so we could have had a better dialogue between Russian and British business entities, but I know that the British Government has allocated time to progress all of that and push forward much stronger ties between Russia and the UK.

I believe that if we could find a solution to some of the political wranglings it would enhance and increase what the two countries can do together. And although I think that we are very successful in this market because the UK has been very successful in marketing itself here, the political side is making some of the larger companies wary of investing in Russia at the moment. A resolution of the political issues would give everybody a stronger feeling of stabilisation so that businesses feel that they are coming into an environment in which they can invest successfully and in which they can prosper with Russian partners.

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