The government intends to act on behalf of minority shareholders
On October 26, 2012 Spartak and Kommunarka confectionaries were de facto nationalized. It is anticipated that the issue of minority shareholders’ protection by the state will be decided on default. If so, the rights of large investors and minority shareholders will be violated and the feasibility of shares’ ownership in Belarusian enterprises will become even more questionable.
On October 25th, 2012 a meeting about how to improve public shares management was held.
Private shareholder’s stake in “Spartak” has been reduced from majority to minority by issuing additional shares and transferring to the state’s balance. It has been proposed to simplify functions of the Supervisory Boards at enterprises with state’s share larger than 50%. Private minority stakeholders are supposed to be protected by the state, even if they have not expressed interest in such protection. At enterprises with state’s shares less than 50% it was proposed to nominate a person to carry out state policy.
In fact, it implies a double standard in the field of corporate management. If an enterprise is owned by the state by 50% or more, the state does not care about the minority shareholders’ interests. The state will ignore opinions of shareholders about dividends and management in the name of public interest. If a private owner has the majority stake, the state formally denies it the right to control the enterprise, based on the assumption that it will focus on investment return, rather than on serving public interests.
Superficial concern about private minority shareholders is an attempt to control additional shares concentrated in the hands of private individuals. Private person, in state’s view, is incapable to decide whom and how to transfer the management of his/her stake. The state can therefore obtain the right to dispose of additional shares, without additional costs.
Thus, an investor is faced with choice: either to purchase the enterprise entirely to get rid of the state and private shareholders, or to invest at own risk, bearing in mind the potential risk to lose investments and control over the company, even if he or she is a majority stakeholder, as stakes can be taken away on formal grounds in the future. In these circumstances, privatization of state enterprises makes no sense for the majority of shareholders unless 100% of shares are sold.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.