Putin orders new commission to regulate foreign investment

Business Materials 2 June 2008 16:26 (UTC +04:00)

Russia's Vladimir Putin called for the creation of a government commission Monday to decide on foreign requests to buy into key sectors such as oil and gas, media and telecoms, reported dpa.

Under a law passed in April, the prime minister would head the commission, giving Putin final say on foreign investments into one of 42 sectors defined as "strategic" by the bill.

The commission's "primary goal is to consider applications of our foreign partners for the purchase of the enterprises in strategic branches of the Russian economy," Putin was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying at a government session Monday.

After an eight-year presidency, Putin became prime minister in May in a clear sign he would retain a decisive role in the country's politics alongside his protege and successor to the Kremlin Dmitry Medvedev.

Foreigners will now need to seek approval from the government commission to buy a 25 to 50 per cent stake in Russian companies, provoking concern among investors who fear more state bureaucracy and its security services blocking business deals.

Putin brushed aside concerns over the new legislation Monday saying it would simplify the rules investors.

"The new law on foreign investments does not in any way constitute a ban, to the contrary it creates the most transparent and clear procedures possible for investors, which is the basic intent of the law," Putin said.

While a lack of regulatory law has long been seen as a political risk on Russian markets, investors were shocked the new legislation extended to over half of the country's economy.

Russian newspapers have listed the nuclear, aerospace and arms industry, as well as oil and gas, media and fishing among the wide-ranging industries defined as "crucial to national security."

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told journalists Monday that the list of sectors viewed as "strategic" could be reduced.

The realization of the commission has been one of the guiding policies of Putin's presidency as he moved to reassert the state's control over sectors privatized after the fall of the Soviet Union.