American investors understand the approach that President Putin has recently announced
The Russian business is in hysterics in connection with the arrest of Yukos's CEO. Businessmen continue calling upon the president to do something about it. The exchanges are panicking, the ruble is losing is value and so are Russian companies' stocks. Yukos's stocks have become 20 percent cheaper since morning. Administrations of Russian exchanges have suspended the tender, because of the apprehension of the possible market collapse. However, the tender was resumed an hour later. Nevertheless, analysts' conclusion is unanimous: Khodorkovsky's arrest has cost Russia $15 billion and it will cost even more. Is it really true?
The situation was similar after Platon Lebedev's arrest - a shareholder of Yukos. Markets were rather feverish for about a week. However, when it became known that the situation with Lebedev was very serious, the market stabilized. Yukos's stocks went up, other companies' stocks increased more than they did before. It testifies to the fact that the Russian market economy is becoming the market economy indeed. Yukos and Khodorkovsky are not the center of the universe. There are other large and smaller companies in Russia too - they manufacture the competitive production and successfully sell it worldwide. On the whole, it makes no difference to investors - which Russian company to cooperate with in order to earn money on the Russian crude. Despite all good feelings that American financial and oil circles have toward Yukos and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, they will negotiate Yukos's participation in business with anyone, if the matter is profitable to them.
In addition, American investors understand the approach that President Putin has recently announced. Indeed, the law equalizes everyone in civilized countries. Any American billionaire never forgets the invisible line that he or she can cross under no circumstances (when a very successful Wall Street man can quickly become a legally pursued outsider or persona non grata in business circles.
The US has recently experienced the crisis with giant companies such as Enron - they decided that billions can justify everything. However, billions do not justify anything. If Mikhail Khodorkovsky worked in the US, he would have very few chances to have such an unblemished reputation and the huge fortune, even according to the American norms.
It seems that the Russian business community has not developed a single stance regarding the situation with Yukos. Anatoly Chubais was the person who had expressed a very strong support to the arrested oligarch, although Chubais can hardly be referred to the Russian business elite (Anatoly Chubais chairs RAO UES of Russia). However, Chubais had to use something in his own defense as well. On Sunday, Chubais reminded everyone in a television interview that when he was a member of the government, the government was on trial with Khodorkovsky because of the incorrect privatization. Yet, as soon as Chubais stopped being a statesman, several officials struck an illegal transaction with the then head of Menatep Bank.
That is why, there is nothing surprising about Vladimir Putin's refusal to have meetings with spokespeople for the Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists and other lobbyists begging to turn a blind eye on the past sins of the business elite.
Now Mikhail Khodorkovsky's fate is in the hands of the legal system and law-enforcement agencies with all their drawbacks. The fates of the others are in their own hands. It is universally acknowledged that it is impossible to live in the society and to be independent on it. Businessmen are guilty of the current society and of the current laws. They are guilty because of greediness, lack of foresight, their certainty of the absolute impunity. The laws that Russian oligarchs have passed to subdue their competitors are now working against them. Why couldn't they pass normative laws that could protect both a money bag and a widow of an officer who was killed in Chechnya?
Analysts are certain that Khodorkovsky's arrest is a complete crush. The stocks are falling, the ruble is losing its value. Experts think that the cash outflow is to increase dramatically. Yet, it is obvious that the weakening of the ruble is very good for natural wealth exporters. It is also clear that the measures against the money outflow and the tax evasion will be toughened. Who knows if the capital manages to leave Russia this time.
In addition, the Russian government has finally learnt how to use the reduction of stocks. One shall recollect the recent statement from German Gref about the privatization of RAO UES of Russia's generating capacities. Oligarchs have saved thick packs of stocks, but they have been cheated again. Money auctions have nullified stockholders' advantages. Who is buying RAO UES of Russia's stocks, the value of which has been damaged because of Khodorkovsky's arrest?
That is why, it will not be a surprise, if someone is deliberately snatching up Yukos's cheap stocks too. Obviously, it is not ExxonMobil or ChevronTexaco who still wish to merge with Russia's largest company. It is not ruled out that Rosneft, Surgutneftegaz or Gazprom will become Yukos's shareholders in the nearest future. Probably, their shareholdings will not be considerable at first, but they will be large enough in order to make fundamental decisions only in shareholders' consent. Yukos might start a new life after that, but Mikhail Khodorkovsky will not be the most important person anymore. Negotiations with foreign investors will be resumed.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky has done that to businessmen and companies on many occasions. Won't it be fair if he finds himself in his victims' shoes now? In general, there are more important things in real life and business than stock quotations and the outflow of capital. Yet, Mikhail Khodorkovsky will realize it too late.