Russian investors are bailing out of Mechel – one of Russia’s largest coal and steel firms – following comments from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The shares plunged on Friday when Putin said Mechel was price-fixing and then again on Monday after he said it had evaded taxes by selling products through offshore companies.
A senior economic advisor to the Kremlin, Arkady Dvorkovich, sought to calm the markets when he said: “We hope that, first of all, these events will be a lesson for everybody, not just for Mechel, but for all major and minor Russian companies, for every company and we will all act in a civilised way in the market .”
But the markets are worried that Putin’s comments are a precursor to a repeat of the Kremlin’s takeover of oil giant Yukos. The Russian state anti-competition authority has started an investigation into Mechel.
Investor confidence was further knocked by the abrupt departure from the country of Robert Dudley, the boss of Anglo-Russian oil firm TNK-BP.
Dudley claimed that there has been a campaign of harassment from the four Kremlin connected Russian billionaires who own half of the joint venture and who want to get rid of him and take it over. TNK-BP is Russia’s third largest oil producer.