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    IN 2003 ATTITUDE OF WESTERN INVESTORS TOWARDS RUSSIA IMPROVED DRASTICALLY

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    LONDON, 27 February. /RIA Novosti correspondent Aleksander Smotrov/. The conference "Entrepreneurial ethics and corporate governance in Russia: events, investors' opinions" which was held on Friday in London concluded that in 2003 attitude of Western investors towards Russia drastically changed for the better.

    The forum organized by the analytical center of the Russian "Expert" magazine with assistance of the Financial Times newspaper, PriceWaterhouseCoopers audit company, and the London Stock exchange was designed to publicize results of the international survey of opinions of Western investors regarding capital investments into Russia.

    The survey was carried out jointly by the Expert analytical center and the British West Bridge Consulting Company. In November 2003-January 2004 they carried out a poll among a number of high-ranking managers of leading Western companies, in particular, General Motors, Deutsche Bank, KPMG. Andrei Shmarov, director of the Expert analytical center, announced the generalized results of the survey at the press conference.

    According to him, "in 2003 attitude of Western investors towards Russia underwent significant, radical changes which resulted not through some drastic changes in the situation in Russia but through changes in Western understanding of the situation there".

    "If last year people were looking back to assess the situation, then presently they changed the gradient of their attitude to readiness to invest. " The expert added that "investors were in a crouch start position".

    According to him, several major factors affected the attitude. In particular, departure from practically absolute dependence of economic growth on the situation in the oil market, as well as strengthening of Russia's positions in global politics, due to its weighted policy regarding events in Iraq.

    In his turn Alistair Ross Goobey, head of the International corporate governance network clearly stated at the conference that "in the last 4 years Russia was transformed into one of the best markets in the world." He added that "presently it was not a "wild East" but a normal reasonable market." At the same time, according to Ross Goobey, from the point of view of corporate governance Russia is still facing problems, which in general are similar to the ones which concern other states. Among them he mentioned "insufficient transparency of operations of a lot of companies, the necessity to attract independent third parties into management of large corporations, as well as to avoid repetition of events like the Yukos case, which frightened investors away and undermined their confidence in the country".

    In his statement regarding forecasts of improvement of investment attractiveness of Russia in the years to come Chris Weafer, chief expert on Alfa-Bank development strategy formulated several issues which, in his opinion, Western investors would expect from the Russian leadership.

    First of all, Weafer mentioned the new structure of the Russian government and continuation of the administrative reform. In addition to that, Western countries were expecting continuation of the course towards creation of an attractive investment climate in Russia, closure of the Yukos -Menatep case, return of exported capitals back to Russia, development of new budgetary mechanisms to encourage economic growth and continuation of the struggle against bureaucracy and corruption.

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