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27 Aug, 2009 17:58

Rouble stability a key for companies posting 1H results

This week has seen a range of companies posting 1H and 2Q earnings results under global standards. A key factor coming through in all has been the effect of Rouble volatility.

The Russian Rouble has held relatively steadily at about 30.50 to 32 to the US dollar for about 3 months. That’s in marked contrast to the last year which has seen the Russian currency as strong as 23.15 to the dollar in august 2008, and as low as 36 to the dollar in February this year.

Managing that 30% fluctuation hasn’t been easy and this weeks postings are showing three key impacts.

Exporters – oil, gas, and metals, for example – see a weaker Rouble as a good thing. It makes their products more competitive abroad, and reduces their production costs in relation to their end product pricing.

It's a different story for sectors like retail. When more Roubles are needed to pay for imported goods, that means higher prices and smaller profit margins.

But exporters and importers alike are in the same boat when they have major debts denominated in foreign currencies. The Rouble slump from earlier this year made servicing debts far more expensive in Rouble terms, according to Konstantin Chernyshev, Head of Research at Uralsib.

“There is one important thing which is related to all sectors. It is debt load. Many Russian companies have debts denominated in international currencies, and the weaker the Rouble the more expensive debt servicing becomes. Especially those that have their sales in Roubles.”

Russia's Vimpelcom has posted a second quarter net profit of nearly $720 million dollars – better than many analysts expected.

Much of that was due to the Rouble's rebound against the dollar from earlier this year, causing a revaluation of the firm's dollar debts.

The mobile operator which operates in Russia, and internationally has an $18 billion debt load. 70% of that is denominated in U.S. dollars, 10% in euro. Vimpelcom CEO, Boris Nemsic, is acutely aware this requires careful management – and of how its made presenting 1H results a little easier.

"It's definitely an issue that our business is to some extent volatile to the foreign currency exchange. We are in the lucky situation that we are growing in Rouble terms.”

The Rouble's rate to the dollar has remained stable over the past three months. That's good news for Rouble-earning, foreign-currency indebted companies – but only so long as more excessive fluctuations don't occur.