Kommersan Russia Launches 20-Year Space Program
Russia has started building the first post-Soviet space center, Vostochny, which is intended to demonstrate Russia’s commitment to upholding its space heritage.
Vladimir Putin issued a decree on launching “one of the largest and most ambitious projects in modern Russia” in November 2007.
The new spaceport is needed because the Defense Ministry’s Plesetsk spaceport is not used for manned missions and the Baikonur space center is leased from Kazakhstan and is not Russia’s property.
Vostochny will be built on the site of the former Svobodny spaceport in the Russian Far East. It will have 10 sites with launch pads and assembly and trial facilities. The aircraft launched from Vostochny will fly over scarcely populated areas and bodies of water, which could pose problems for manned missions, said Alexander Lopatin, deputy head of the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos.
It will take at least eight years to launch the first mission from Vostochny, which is a short time for such an ambitious project. The approval of Space Development Strategy 2030 has given Roscosmos a direction, but its success will largely depend on Vostochny.
Vostochny not only implies major financial obligations but is also a prestige project. Solutions used for building the Soyuz-ST launch pad on Kourou, French Guiana, will be applied at Vostochny. Flight tests of a new manned cargo spacecraft are to begin by 2020.
Roscosmos is focused on unmanned projects that promise major socioeconomic and research benefits, but will need a fundamentally new carrier rocket to do this. The new Angara carrier rocket was to be launched from Plesetsk in 2005, but the date was postponed eight times before the RD-191 engine designed for Angara completed ground trials in May 2011. It will replace the old Proton system, which uses highly toxic fuel and is launched from Baikonur.
Vostochny will also have launch pads for the highly reliable but obsolete Soyuz-2 systems. They should be ultimately replaced by the Angara, which will be used primarily for Russian missions to be launched from Russia.
Russia does not plan to terminate the lease agreement for Baikonur even after the Vostochny center becomes operational. Kazakhstan has been complaining about the lease price – $115 million annually, even though Baikonur’s equipment has been worn out by numerous launches. Russia could either invest in Baikonur’s modernization or get rid of its dependence on Kazakhstan by building a new spaceport. Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said that Vostochny is being built to eliminate future political risks.
The Vostochny project, which is to be funded by a program on the development of Russian space centers, will receive over 173 billion rubles (about $6 billion) by 2015, including 92 billion rubles is to be invested in the launch and technical facilities and some 81 billion in ground infrastructure. Total allocations will reach 300 billion rubles (over $10 billion).
The first stage of the project began in 2011 with the construction of highways and railroads.
Moskovskiye Novosti Famous Russian Winery Goes Public
Russia's oldest sparkling wine producer, Abrau Durso, floated shares on the MICEX-RTS stock exchange on April 11. Although analysts praise the move, other Russian wineries are unlikely to follow suit.
The first trading day was successful for Abrau Durso, with its stock closing at 5,307 rubles ($178), a 2% rise, putting the winery’s market capitalization at about $130 million.
The trading was not held according to standard procedure because Abrau Durso stock was admitted to trading as “non-listed securities,” a stock market option chosen by the issuer. However, the trading turnover exceeded 13 million rubles with less than 0.5% of the company’s stock on offer.
Oleg Dushin, a senior analyst at Zerich Capital Management in Moscow, expects Abrau Durso shares to gain 25% by yearend. “This company is fast growing and highly competitive. Its stock is a good instrument for portfolio diversification,” said Ivan Kabulayev, managing director at Investcafe independent analytical agency.
The company’s reputation is its major asset, analysts say. In 2011, Abrau Durso produced 16.5 million bottles of sparkling wine. Its net profit more than doubled at 538.4 million ($19mn) on a one-third rise in revenues.
Abrau Durso head Boris Titov revealed IPO plans in 2009. However, the company opted against the standard procedure including a road show, a bid book and a listing. “The company views its IPO as “fighting reconnaissance,” aimed at kick-starting a public campaign rather than at raising money,” alcohol market analyst Vadim Drobiz said. Titov confirmed this view: “We entered the share market in order to get estimates of the market capitalization of our company. We need to know how efficient our team is, how investors assess our brand, and how well we handle the market,” he said.
The company plans to complete the listing procedures later and increase its free float to 10% by yearend. Titov does not rule out the possibility of a buyback to support the stock in the event of a sharp fall.
Titov earlier cited plans to boost Abrau Durso’s capitalization to $1 billion by 2020. This will inevitably require foreign investors, and it’s not easy to get them interested, analysts say. The latest reform of Russia’s alcohol industry tightened the licensing rules and increased market risks. According to Leonid Popovich, president of the Russian Union of Wine Growers and Winemakers, the way the industry is regulated and taxed hampers its healthy development. In 2010, the government sharply raised excise taxes on alcohol including grape wines, by 41%. In other countries wines are entirely free from the excise tax, Popovich said.
Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization will also affect the industry as it will lead to stronger competition. Therefore, according to analysts, Abrau Duso will probably remain the only publicly traded winery, as others are unlikely to venture going public.
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