Monthly Archives: September 2006

RUSSIAN OLIGARCHIES LINE UP FOR GLOBAL LOOTING

As the most powerful heads of state return from St Petersburg’s G8 summit where they sentenced energy, defence and global policies to further corporate looting, Russian thinkers came to the UK to examine the business and misdemeanors of the Russia’s super rich oligarchs, who seem to be the beneficiaries of the G8 projects.

The Moscow-based Institute of Globalization Studies (IPROG) and the leading Russian anti-corporatist organisation Counter Corporate Centre (KOFR) hosted a round table discussing and highlighting the true threats, risks and challenges of the transnationalization of Russian oligarchic consortia. An expert panel on Russian business and politics including Boris Kagarlitsky, Prof Alex Callinicos, Simeon Zhavoronkov (KOFR), Dr. Paddy Rawlinson and David Crouch (FT.com) and 15 other expert in law, politics and economics debated the controversial role of the consortia in the West, with a focus on the “Alfa Group” as the most aggressive and non-transparent group.

In the beginning Alex Callinicos pointed out “the complex character of Russian oligarchy, its tight political and economic interconnections”, and mentioned that Russian bureaucracy was a special type of corporate elite. Alfa’s members are not an exception here. And its global behavior reflects a long tradition of Russian mafia approaches, starting with corruption and murders and finishing with financial and telecommunications raids.

Boris Kagarlisky, Director of the Institute for Globalization Studies, is experienced in research of oligarchic groups in Russia. He stated, that economic growth was accompanied by impressive growth of capitalization of Russian companies belonging to the so-called “oligarchic structures”. These structures emerged in the mid 1990s when government sponsored the creation of “financial-industrial groups” – new private conglomerates replacing old Soviet ministries. Unlike Korean “chobols” these conglomerates were not involved in manufacturing and held no interest in the domestic market. Like the “Alfa-Groups” they were created and controlled corrupt government officials and by their partners in business. Much of their success is due to the fact that they not only privatized the state property at symbolic prices (in fact, for free), but continued to use public resources long after privatization. The formation of these groups was accompanied by massive theft and corruption; sometimes also involving other crimes such as murder.

The round table revealed that Russian oligarchies are globally most active in three economic sectors  – oil, finances and telecommunications. Peter Glatter from the University of Wolverhampton Business School reported, “Europe appears to be the main destination for Russian firms. According to one source, as of 2001 two-thirds of Russian multinational companies were focusing on it. This fits with the pattern of Russian outward foreign direct investment (OFDI). As of 2004, the EU had attracted half of all Russian OFDI.” In addition it was pointed out that habits Russian firms got accustomed to in Russia remain the same in Europe with all the corresponding outcomes.

Controversial Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman runs the “Alfa-Group”, an oil, telecommunications and banking conglomerate. Fridman’s partner, Peter Aven, was Russia’s minister of foreign economic affairs. Fridman was one of the Big Seven, who claimed to then control 50% of Russia’s assets. Timely reminders have surfaced of an old and embarrassing row between Fridman and BP over the ownership of Russian oil firm Sidanco, although relations were patched up and Fridman is now a major strategic partner of the British oil giant.

British Petroleum taken over by Russians is in fact not the only outcome of oligarchic activities in the West. Moreover, scandals unleashed around other companies in France, Norway, Turkey, Germany. An example is the retail network “Perekrestok” which appeared in Russia as an Alpha project. It was discovered, that Alfa had captured the famous French retail brand “Carrefour”. In Turkey and Norway Alfa has tried repeatedly to amend contracts with partner telecommunication companies in order to take over their leadership and regional assets. A shift in oligarchic interests has occurred away from internal political plays to external economic combinations, involving and corrupting European politicians as well.

David Crouch, Assistant News Editor FT.com commented on this trend by highlighting how many stakes in telecommunication companies worldwide are controlled by Alfa and scandals that have arisen from it..

Company Stakes owned by
Alfa Telenor TeliaSonera
(45% owned by Swedish govt)
IPOC TCI
Vimpelcom 25% 30%
Kyivstar 45% 55%
Megafon 25% 44% 6.5% 31%
Turkcell 13% 37%

The Alfa-Group is fostering dreams to take over all assets, which are currently owned by its partners. An illustrative example is the battle for Megafon.

In one of Russia’s most notorious business disputes, Alfa locked horns with TeliaSonera when the Nordic group sided with Alfa’s rival in a conflict over Alfa’s purchase of a 25% stake in Megafon. Analysts say that Alfa may be planning to expand its 25% in MegaFon and merge it with VimpelCom, creating a new giant that could displace Russia’s top telecoms company, Mobile TeleSystems.

In March 2005 TeliaSonera publicly backed IPOC, an offshore investment fund, in its dispute with Alfa, saying it would block Alfa Group from holding a stake in Megafon. TeliaSonera pointed to a shareholders agreement that prevents a direct or indirect competitor to Megafon, such as Alfa, from owning shares in the company. IPOC challenged Alfa’s purchase through courts in Europe and the British Virgin Islands, saying that it had an option to buy the shares from LV Finance, the previous owner.

The Swedish group had tried to stay out of the dispute, but then publicly sided with IPOC and its ally TelecomInvest (TCI), with the three signing an agreement to strengthen their relationship. IPOC holds an 8% stake in Megafon; TCI holds 31%. IPOC claimed the contested MegaFon stake was transferred to offshore companies owned by Alfa and registered in the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. The International Chamber of Commerce in Geneva ruled in IPOC’s favor in August 2004.

Alfa hit back and used a British businessman, Anthony Georgiou, to take IPOC to court. Alfa accused IPOC of money-laundering to the tune of $40m.

The dispute dragged in Germany’s Commerzbank. Müller, Commerzbank’s chief executive, and board member Klaus-Peter responsible for Russia and Eastern Europe until 1999, were investigated over allegations involving an estimated $212m of cash. Alfa proved nothing in this case. Finally, as the FT put it, Commerzbank was “left to pause for thought about the wisdom of its ties to Russia”.

In June 2006, IPOC filed a lawsuit in New York against Alfa, alleging racketeering, money-laundering and share price manipulation. A Russian court recently prohibited Alfa to re-set court processions to other courts as this a raiders approach. Obviously this precedent should point down all Alfa’s manipulations in telecommunications sector round the world.

“The dispute confirms that Russian business is still a world of offshore bank accounts, secretive trusts and private investigators,” David Crouch stated.

After examination and discussion the round table panel agreed that the specific business culture developed by dominant Russian corporations reflects the general conditions under which Russian capitalism emerged as well as the logic of “political capitalism” that was formed during the years of neoliberal reforms. This business culture can be characterized by a combination of aggressive competition and intensive use of political connections to achieve dominant position on the market. In this struggle for market domination acquisition of assets is preferred to expanding production, developing new products or using innovative technologies. Moreover, everything that is presented as innovation, is in reality no more than an attempt to copy Western practices (like a very expensive rebranding of BeeLine by “VimpelCom”). The extremely costly campaign involved massive propaganda efforts and enjoyed very little success with the public. However, if we look at this campaign more carefully, we discover that the basic mentality behind it was reflecting not that much Western style rebranding concepts, but rather the traditions of state propaganda, Soviet style.

While increasing efficiency plays only a marginal role in business strategies generated by this culture, it is no surprise that political connections and corruption are essential. Naturally this can be seen as a specific “Russian” way of doing business, but Western corporate culture, as we know from many scandals is not immune to these diseases either. Transnationalization of Russian oligarchic conglomerates and their expansion into Western Europe can end up in an unpleasant merger of “Eastern” and “Western” corporate practices, or rather their worst elements.

Not surprisingly, the arrival of Russian investors in the West is not always welcome. It is accompanied by scandals and conflicts as well as political protests. While the Right is still living with its “Cold War” memories and is suspicious of anything coming from Russia, the Left sees the owners of these companies as looters running away from the scene of theft, crooks who are not welcome in any society. In practice this global expansion of Russian oligarchy is another manifestation of a new global capitalist order and a neoliberal international economic system.

While the roots of the problem are deep and cannot be addressed without us discussing the systemic changes in both Russian and Western economies, the practical consequences of this oligarchic expansion are quite visible and can be addressed immediately. The best way to do this is to single out a few concrete cases, attract public attention and turn them into a model, showing how civil society in democratic countries should deal with these problems in general. This will involve public debate and civic action both in the West and in Russia. For the new anti-corporate movement in Russia that struggle will also be a test and a lesson of international solidarity.

  • Simeon Zhavoronkov

Copyright Respect 2006

TeliaSonera board put CEO’s organisation change proposal on ice – report

TeliaSonera AB’s board shelved a proposal by chief executive Anders Igel to change the organisational structure in order to speed up growth and shorten decision making times, the technology newspaper Ny Teknik reported without naming sources.

Igel wanted to move the organisation away from country based profit centres towards business areas based on similar customers.

The board, however, decided to put Igel’s proposal on ice with some inside TeliaSonera saying this was due to the board wanting to wait until a replacement for criticised Igel is found, while others say the shelving was due to the board’s fear that a big reorganisation would slow down the restructuring programme in Sweden and Finland, Ny Teknik said.

One unnamed source told the newspaper that the most probable explanation is that the board didn’t think the proposal was sufficiently thought through and told Igel to go away and come back with a better plan.

www.forbes.com

Sweden’s TeliaSonera CEO, top executive charged with bribery

Apie TEO neatsakingumą

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P.S. Apie Teo galiu pasakyti tik tiek iš savo patirties, kiek jie savininkų ir pavadinimų nepakeistų – paslaugų kokybė negerėja!!!

www.skundai.lt

Sweden: Right-wing coalition takes power

Sweden’s Social Democrats have lost power to the right-wing Alliance led by Moderate party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt. The Alliance victory was declared with sitting Prime Minister Göran Persson’s concession speech just short of three hours after polls closed on September 17. Persson announced he would resign as leader of the Social Democrats next March. The new government will be formed by October 5.

The Alliance won by a narrow margin of 48 percent to 46.2 percent of votes cast. This translates into 178 to 171 seats in the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament, for the four party grouping of the Moderates, the Centre Party, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. Within the Alliance, the Moderates increased their vote from 15.3 percent to 26.1 percent at the expense of the Liberal Party. They also took votes from the Social Democrats and the former Stalinist Left Party.

Although the Social Democrats remain by a significant margin the largest single party, with 35.2 percent of the vote, this is down from 39.8 percent in the 2002 election. It is their lowest share of the vote since 1920. The party also lost control of the Stockholm municipality. The situation is significant in that the Social Democrats have been the ruling party in Sweden for all but nine of the last 74 years.

The poor performance of its allies, particularly the Left Party, has reduced the Social Democrat-led semi coalition to a minority in the 349 seat-Riksdag. The Left Party vote slumped from 8.3 percent to 5.8 percent, costing them eight seats, while the Greens increased their vote from 4.6 percent to 5.2 percent.

In an election characterised by bad tempered spats and underhand campaigning methods, including computer hacking, the central issues facing working people were distorted by both camps.

The two groupings both presented themselves as defending the so-called “Swedish model” of welfare provision and re-training for the unemployed. The Social Democrats claimed social welfare was safe in their hands, while their record in government proved the opposite, whilst the Alliance claimed that its programme of tax cuts and privatisation was also somehow in keeping with the “Swedish model.”

In reality, both have sought to undermine the welfare regime and deepen deregulation, differing only over the speed and scope of how this should be done.

In recent years, the Social Democrats have implemented deregulation in schools and health, while supervising massive increases in productivity in alliance with the trade unions. Although official unemployment is around 5 percent, a number of measures have been utilised to mask hidden unemployment, which is reportedly as high as 15 percent, particularly amongst immigrant workers.

In addition to its inability to address unemployment, the Persson government, in power since 1994, was distrusted and mired in corruption scandals. Through its extensive network of connections with the state apparatus, state monopolies and the trade union bureaucracy, the government had been exposed as filling a range of leading positions with Persson’s close friends and family. His wife, for example, was made head of the state alcohol monopoly. A survey of electoral candidates revealed that Social Democratic contenders were the wealthiest of all the parties.

The government was also widely criticised for the indifference it showed towards the fate of many thousands of Swedes caught up in the Southeast Asian tsunami disaster.

During the election, Persson denounced the “nasty class politics” of the Alliance. But distrust of the Social Democrats outweighed the warnings it delivered against its opponents.

The Alliance coalition emerged after the Moderate Party’s disastrous performance in the 2002 elections. Then the party’s open racism and proposals to cut £9.5 billion in taxes had seen its vote fall to just over 15 percent.

There is no doubt that under conditions of growing disgust with the Social Democrats, the Moderates’ subsequent effort to rebrand themselves has had some success.

A more important factor has been the support the party has won from sections of Sweden’s corporate and political elite. They wanted an electable alternative government that was prepared to slash welfare spending, cut taxes and open new areas of the economy to private capital. This latter demand was not pursued with sufficient rigor by the Social Democrats. This was not because of a commitment to maintaining the living standards of the working class, but because the privileged existence of the party apparatus was bound up with Sweden’s corporate model.

Under Reinfeldt, the Moderates made agreements with other centre-right formations and moderated the tax- and benefit-cutting programmes that proved massively unpopular in 2002. During campaigning, the Alliance was able to win support by claiming that it would create “real” jobs as opposed to welfare provisions, and attacked the Social Democrats for policies that fostered “social exclusion.”

Despite this attempt to present a less overtly pro-business face, the Alliance programme represents an escalation in the attacks on the social gains of the working class. Its “job creation” programme is in fact a plan for 15 percent cuts in unemployment benefit and payroll tax cuts to make it easier for smaller, particularly service employers, to take on low-paid workers. It also proposes to attack sick pay, forcing workers back into the labour market. The Alliance has agreed to freeze property taxes, ultimately replacing centrally imposed property tax with local taxes.

The new government will aim to hasten the break-up of the state-owned alcohol, pharmacy and gambling monopolies, on which significant sections of the Social Democrats depend, while selling off the state holdings in some of Sweden’s larger corporations. The TeliaSonera telecoms group, Nordea bank, and SAS airline are to be targeted. Altogether, some 200 billion kronor ($27.6 billion) of privatisations are proposed.

While claiming to benefit highly taxed workers, homeowners and small business, the incoming government’s real beneficiaries will be sections of big business and finance who have become increasingly impatient with the Social Democrats.

Typical is the comment from Johnny Munkhammer of the right-wing Timbro think tank. According to Munkhammer, “public monopolies stand in the way of not only better welfare services but also many new entrepreneurs and jobs.”

Indicative of some of the sums and forces involved has been a growing row over the fate of Volvo—the profitable truck manufacturer. Cevian Capital, along with the British-owned Parvus Asset Management, recently bought eight million shares in Volvo and is demanding that Volvo pay out some 19 billion kronor ($2.6 billion) to its shareholders. Sweden is also the centre of Northern Europe’s venture capital industry.

In the face of this sustained pressure from corporate asset strippers, neither the Left Party nor the Greens have been able to make any progress. Both have been discredited by their association with the Social Democrats. During the election, the Left Party called for the extension of welfare and shorter working hours without explaining why it had propped up the Social Democrats for years. The party also suffered from a split with the feminists in its ranks who, led by former Left Party leader Gudrun Schyman, formed their own party, the Feminist Initiative.

For their part, the Greens made clear that they would happily work with either the Liberals or the Moderates, should the opportunity present itself.

On the far right, the Sweden Democrats did not overcome the 4 percent threshold to enter parliament, although in one local council, Landskrona, the xenophobic and anti-immigrant party won 22 percent of the vote.

www.wsws.org

Anders Bruse new President of TeliaSonera Sweden after Marie Ehrling resigns from TeliaSonera at her own request

Anders Bruse has today been appointed President of TeliaSonera Sweden after Marie Ehrling has chosen to leave the company after nearly 4 years in her present position. Marie Ehrling will remain available to TeliaSonera until mid 2007.

“I have had a fantastic time at TeliaSonera. The telecoms business is very dynamic and the market is undergoing tremendous changes. I am proud that we at TeliaSonera Sweden have successfully continued to retain our strong market position over the last few years in spite of intensified competition combined with major and necessary adjustments to the way we run our business. I send my sincere thanks to all my colleagues at TeliaSonera Sweden whose extensive competence and determination have ensured that the business has developed in such a positive way. Regarding my future plans it is still unclear what I will be doing,” says Marie Ehrling in a comment.

“Marie Ehrling has made important contributions to TeliaSonera in a time of major change. I highly appreciate our collaboration and it has been both enjoyable and stimulating working together with her. Marie has delivered very good results in the Swedish business. I wish Marie good luck in her future endeavours and I am convinced that she will continue to be successful in the next stage of her career,” says Anders Igel, President and CEO of TeliaSonera.

Anders Bruse was born in 1954 and holds an engineering degree in technical physics from the Stockholm Royal Institute of Technology.  He has also studied economics at Stockholm University. Anders Bruse has worked for Telia/TeliaSonera
since 1989 in a number of senior positions such as; Head of Business Area Enterprises with a turn-over of 20 GSEK and 16,500 employees, and as Head of Telia Mobile Sweden with a turnover of 11 GSEK and 1,100 employees. He was also
project director in the work to merge the activities of Telia and Sonera during 2002.  In his most recent position Anders Bruse was Head of Products and Services within TeliaSonera Sweden. Prior to his time at TeliaSonera Anders Bruse was
employed by, amongst others, Ericsson and Vattenfall.
_____________________________________________
For further information journalists can contact:
TeliaSonera

ZEBRA internetas – TELEKOMAS

Sveiki,

Noriu pasidalyti sunkia dalia :), užsisakiau internetą. Labai gražaus balso mergina Virginija Šitonskienė konsultantė iš telekomo, suteikė gerą konsultaciją, kuria atsiminsiu dar ilgai.

Šiaip jei galėčiau nutraukčiau visus ryšius su šia kompanija, geriau mokėti brangiau, bet nebūti apmulkinamam.

Vyko akcija telekomas nemokamai įveda internetą ir modemas nemokamai, 15 dienų nemokamai pabandymams ir jei nepatiktų galima atsisakyti. Na galvoju reiktų pabandyti, užsisakiau internetą, po savaitės atvežė man modemą, pasirašiau sutartėlę, ir “kurjeris” paliko mane su sutartimi ir įranga.

Sako pasijungsite labai paprastai pati savarnkiškai, pasiskambinau į telekomą, dabar jau kitaip paaiškino, kad aktyvavimas nemokamai, o pajungimas papildomai 50lt, supykau pradžioje, bet vėliau galvoju, tiek to išdūrė kvailą panelę, tai aš tris dienas jungiau ir matau, kad nesugebėsiu.

Galvoju reikia atsisakyti tada, jungčiaus per balticum. Skambinu, aš konsultantei į telekomą, aišku, jau niekas nepakvečia konsultantės, sakau kad noriu atsisakytį interneto paslaugų…, girdžiu ir pati netikiu: – gerai 200lt už atjungimą, nes nepastebėjau kaip nebeliko punkto kur per 15 d. galima atsisakyti.

Du sykius išsiduriau :) . Gaila išmesti tuos du šimtus, pakentėsiu aš dar porą metelių … O telekomui sekmės

www.skundai.lt