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15 December 2021

At least 10 Russian companies considering IPOs in 2022, advisers say

·         Russian IPO market returned to life in late 2020

·         Russian firms raised around $7 bln in 2021 listings

·         At least 10 firms preparing for IPO next year

·         Companies seek extra capital

·         Geopolitics, COVID-19 could thwart plans

By Andrey Ostroukh and Alexander Marrow

MOSCOW, Dec 14 (Reuters) - At least 10 Russian companies could hold an initial public offering (IPO) in 2022, extending the listing spree that started a year ago if geopolitics, including Ukraine tensions, and other risks do not thwart their plans, bankers and advisors said.

After a barren few years, IPO activity gained pace in Russia thanks to a post-pandemic economic recovery, a global stock market surge and the growing number of retail investors.

Russian companies raised around $7 billion in IPO and secondary listings in 2021 versus more than $6 billion in 2020, according to Reuters calculations, and this figure could rise in 2022, although COVID-19 lockdowns and military escalation in Ukraine are among the potential hazards. (Full Story)

About 25 Russian companies are actively preparing for an IPO but the number of actual listings could be smaller, said Tom Blackwell, chairman of PR and consultancy firm EM that took part in all but one Russian listing in 2021.

Investment bankers are taking a more conservative view, without disclosing names of IPO candidates.

"More than 10 companies are now considering potential IPO in 2022," said Boris Kvasov, head of equity capital markets at VTB Capital, the investment arm of Russia's No. 2 lender VTB.

Evgeny Sokolsky, head of investment at BCS Global Markets, said companies from the agriculture, home building, and pharmaceutical sectors, as well as spin-offs of large companies could be IPO candidates. He also sees at least 10 candidates for a 2022 IPO.

"A couple of them will definitely do an international listing," said Arthur Valiullin, partner at Da Vinci Capital equity management.

Tech and consumer-focused companies are among likely candidates for IPOs as they seek extra capital and ride the wave of booming demand from retail investors that became "a very real source of liquidity," Blackwell said.

The Russian market is still young and small compared with major global peers. But it "offers a good hedge against accelerated global inflation and an attractive valuation, with most of the blue-chips trading at 30-40% discounts to global peers," Aton brokerage said.

Still, the market is volatile and vulnerable to global risks, such as the new coronavirus strain Omicron. Russia's benchmark MOEX index .IMOEX has shed over 15% since hitting a record high of 4,292.68 in mid-October.

"Many clients are hoping to come out with listings on the back of the full-year numbers but we are all waiting to see whether there are globally coordinated actions by central banks on inflation as well as to address Omicron," said Alina Sychova, head of capital markets at Sova Capital.

Russia specific risk is its stand-off with the West. Fears about Russia's military buildup near Ukraine caused a sell-off in Russian bonds and stocks in November.

"A serious geopolitical escalation like a massive development in war is the kind of thing that makes the IPO market go away... But I don't think we'll see this going ahead in a way that some people seem to be concerned about in the Western world," Blackwell said.

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