Outlook on the Russian economy: Aleksandr Torbakhov

At the St Petersburg Economic Forum, RT spoke with Aleksandr Torbakhov, CEO of Vimpelcom, about the challenges his industry is facing with the economic slowdown, VimpleCom’s expansion plans, and the Rouble.

RT: What is the biggest challenge for your company?

AT: Our clients have not reacted much on the economic conditions. No decrease in mobile services consumption – a small decline is just a seasonal factor. The other thing is we finance our activity with foreign loans, as we buy equipment from abroad. We faced losses due to devaluation and now are trying to attract Rouble loans.

RT: Some say it’s difficult to find money now within the country. Do you think it’s true?

AT: Half a year ago you couldn’t find any money in the country at all, There was such a panic. Now the situation is different. Banks have to restart their normal activity. The problems are many companies have financial problems and their reports are not transparent. Our company is transparent, we’re trading at foreign stock exchanges, we don’t have toxic assets. So it’s quite easy for us now to get money, the question is the terms.

RT: Does this publicity help you to find money both in Russia and outside?

AT: Publicity helps, but the statistics is the key issue in that case.

RT: What are your expansion plans?

AT: We did a lot of expansion last year – Vietnam, Cambodia. This year will be spent to establish procedures and develop the business.

RT: Research of the market. Do you face any challenges because of protectionism?

AT: We choose Asian countries because the penetration of these services is lower there, than in Europe, and there is an opportunity to grow. In Vietnam we are having 40% as it’s prohibited for a foreigner to have a controlling stake in a national mobile operator.

RT: For you as a business person does it matter to have Rouble as a reserve currency?

AT: Definitely yes. We would like to avoid foreign currency risk at all. Our revenue comes in Rouble, that’s 85%, but all our lenders are foreign. The Rouble as a reserve currency may help us to avoid exchange risks.