Goldman Grows Moscow Footprint

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Goldman's Russia operations have already generated almost as much revenue as it had budgeted for the full year, Alexander Dibelius, a senior partner who oversees the bank's business in central and eastern Europe, told Bloomberg News. It's focusing on sales and trading in the commodities and equity markets, along with equity underwriting, merger advice and asset management.

In April, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein sent a letter to Russia's President Vladimir Putin asking for expanded contacts with the Russian government and private partners. The banks helped catalyze the current wave of global investment interest in Russia, by coining the now-ubiquitous acronym, "BRIC" (for Brazil, Russia, India, China) in an influential 2003 research report.

The firm has had its share of setbacks in Russia. Just a month ago, Goldman was reportedly set to hire Russia's top financial regulator, Oleg Vyugin, who resigned his post as director of the Federal Financial Markets Service on May 10. Vyugin ended up as chairman of a large local institution, MDM Bank, which reportedly offered him a better compensation package than Goldman did. In 2005, Goldman failed in an attempt to acquire a leading Russian investment company, Aton Capital Group.

Bloomberg reported in May that Russia's top bankers are earning packages worth $7 million, double the payouts of their Wall Street colleagues. Last summer the Times of London ran a story claiming Russia's banks were offering even relatively junior bankers bonuses of 420,000.

The total value of Russian companies recently surpassed $1 trillion, according to the Russia blog operated by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute's Real Russia Project. Russia is ranked 13th in the world in market capitalization and about 70 companies are planning IPOs there this year.

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