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Posted: December 3, 2008
Russia Courts Nanotechnology Investors With Financing and Other Perks
(Nanowerk News) In times of crisis, nanotechnology is a safe place to invest, State Nanotechnology Corporation chief Anatoly Chubais said Wednesday as he courted investors with offers of cheap state loans and other perks.
The Nanotechnology Corporation, or Rosnano, will offer loans of up to 10 years with interest rates starting at 8 percent, Chubais announced at the opening of the First International Forum on Nanotechnology.
The money will be extended to Russian and foreign investors with the view that they will hold controlling stakes in projects, but Rosnano is ready to fund up to 90 percent of each project, Chubais said.
"We are offering absolutely unique conditions for both Russian and foreign investors, whom we will treat equally," he said.
He said Rosnano was willing to provide legal and tax services as well as scientific expertise to investors and was ready to exit a project as soon as "it gets on the rails and starts to bring in a profit."
Chubais' enthusiasm grew visibly as he spoke to an audience of Russian billionaires, foreign government officials and other investors.
"We will defend you from bureaucracy and corruption and will promote your product," Chubais said. "The only condition that you'll have to meet is to produce your nanotechnology product in Russia."
The government has earmarked 130 billion rubles ($4.65 billion) for Rosnano, which it created last year to attract private investment to nanotechnology and raise the technological level of domestic production.
Chubais said Wednesday that he planned to more than double the initial 130 billion rubles over the next eight years. "We will make 240 [billion] of the 130 billion that we now have by managing investments efficiently," he said. "As soon as we make a return, we will invest again."
Chubais said last month that Rosnano was "in a sweet spot" because it had no debts, loans or any other financial obligations.
His speech Wednesday was warmly welcomed by some investors. "Nanotechnology will help us get out of the crisis by making our products cheaper and more efficient," Severstal chief executive Alexei Mordashov told a panel at the forum.
Onexim Group president Mikhail Prokhorov praised Chubais' terms. "The crisis is not a pretext to stop investing in innovation," Prokhorov said. "Catalysts were developed in the United States during the Great Depression, and synthetic fibers were developed in Japan during its 1990s financial crisis."
Prokhorov and Chubais signed an agreement with the director of the Urals Optical and Mechanical Plant, Sergei Maksin, on Wednesday to produce 120 million LED lamps at the plant annually. Under the terms of the 3.35 billion ruble project, Rosnano will invest 1.7 billion rubles for a 17 percent stake, the plant will invest some 620 million rubles for a 33 percent stake and Onexim will invest 840.5 million rubles and control 50 percent together with the scientists who developed the project. The project is expected to become profitable by 2011 and earn a profit of up to 6 billion rubles annually by 2013.
Chubais said the LED lamps, for use in home and office displays as well as in cell phones, would eventually account for around 1 percent of the Russian market and consume seven times less energy than an ordinary electric lamp.
Prokhorov told the forum's newspaper published Wednesday that he was ready to invest "hundreds of millions" into nanotechnology. "We have no problems with finance. We have problems finding quality projects," Prokhorov said on the sidelines of the forum.
Foreign guests were also positive, but cautious. "What Mr. Chubais said is very attractive," said Finnish Deputy Employment and Economy Minister Mikko Alkio, who signed a cooperation agreement with Rosnano on Wednesday. "However, what we really need to invest in Russian nanotechnology is a open market for innovation, which has still to be developed in the country."
Alkio said Finnish firms were interested in investing in energy and telecommunications nanotechnology in Russia.
Chubais said Rosnano would invest 20 billion rubles in 20 projects in the next three months.
Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who oversees technology in the government, told the forum that the state would invest $10 billion in nanotechnology in the midterm, half of which would be invested by Rosnano. Ivanov assured journalists on the sidelines of the forum that the crisis would not affect Rosnano's activities.
Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina predicted that investment into nanotechnology would nearly triple over the next decade, with more than half of the money coming from private investors.