'Big opportunities' ahead for Russia, says head of foreign investment fund
Russia's economy is expected to return to growth as early as the end of the year and has a "big opportunity" to attract foreign investment, the chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) told CNBC on Wednesday.
"The Russian economy really went through some difficult times but as of the beginning of the year it really reached a floor and is coming up and we expect growth to resume at the end of this year or early next year," Kirill Dmitriev told CNBC in Moscow.
"For us (RDIF) we are still producing positive dollar returns, even with the ruble devaluation all of our investment partners produced positive dollar returns so definitely we see a big opportunity for Russia and our stock market is up around 40 percent in dollar terms from the beginning of the year," he said.
His comments come as Russia's economy starts gradually to improve even if Russia's global political standing is at a low point due to its unwavering support for the controversial Syrian regime and it current bombardment of eastern Aleppo.
Russia's economy entered recession last year amid a global slump in oil prices and western economic sanctions that were imposed on the country for its annexation of Crimea in early 2014 and role in pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine.
The International Monetary Fund predicted in its latest World Economic Outlook in October that Russia's economy could return to growth in 2017 and that its recession had been shallower than expected. It forecast a contraction in Russian GDP of 0.8 percent this year but growth of 1.1 percent in 2017.
Foreign investment is a key part of the economy getting back on track and RDIF is a government-run sovereign wealth fund with $10 billion of reserved capital under management, according to its website.
Since being founded five years ago, the fund has looked to attract foreign investment into Russia's infrastructure and agriculture sectors, as well as healthcare, retail and real estate. It says it has attracted over $27 billion of foreign capital into the Russian economy through long-term strategic partnerships.
Speaking on the sidelines of VTB Bank's "Russia Calling" Investment Forum, Dmitriev said that despite geopolitical tensions, Russia was "open to cooperation with all of the major players in the world."
He added that RDIF was looking to invest in more infrastructure projects in 2017, both in Russia and beyond.
"We continue to focus on large transactions so we will be investing in Pulkovo, which is a major airport in St Petersberg, jointly with major Middle Eastern investors…and we'll be focusing on infrastructure and other key areas that produce positive dollar results to our investors despite the ruble devaluation."